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§ 112. Consecrated Gifts.


It remains to mention in this connection yet another form of decoration for churches, which had already been customary among heathen and Jews: consecrated gifts. Thus the temple of Delphi, for example, had become exceedingly rich through such presents of weapons, silver and golden vessels, statues, &c. In almost every temple of Neptune hung votive tablets, consecrated to the god in thankfulness for deliverance from shipwreck by him.12281228   Comp. Horace, Ars poet. v. 20. A similar custom seems to have existed among the Jews; for I Sam. xxi. implies that David had deposited the sword of the Philistine Goliath in the sanctuary. In the court of the priests a multitude of swords, lances, costly vessels, and other valuable things, were to be seen.

Constantine embellished the altar space in the church of Jerusalem with rich gifts of gold, silver, and precious stones. Sozomen tells us12291229   H. E. iv. 25. that Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, in a time of famine, sold the treasures and sacred gifts of the church, and that afterwards some one recognized in the dress of an actress the vestment he once presented to the church.

A peculiar variety of such gifts, namely, memorials of miraculous cures,12301230   Ἐκτυπώματα. appeared in the fifth century; at least they are first mentioned by Theodoret, who said of them in his eighth discourse on the martyrs: “That those who ask with the confidence of faith, receive what they ask, is plainly proved by their sacred gifts in testimony of their healing. Some offer feet, others hands, of gold or silver, and these gifts show their deliverance from those evils, as tokens of which they have been offered by the restored.” With the worship of saints this custom gained strongly, and became in the middle age quite universal. Whoever recovered from a sickness, considered himself bound first to testify by a gift his gratitude to the saint whose aid he had invoked in his distress. Parents, whose children fortunately survived the teething-fever, offered to St. Apollonia (all whose teeth, according to the legend, had been broken out with pincers by a hangman’s servant) gifts of jawbones in wax. In like manner St. Julian, for happily accomplished journeys, and St. Hubert, for safe return from the perils of the chase, were very richly endowed; but the Virgin Mary more than all. Almost every church or chapel which has a miracle-working image of the mother of God, possesses even now a multitude of golden and silver acknowledgments of fortunate returns and recoveries.



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