NOTE ON P. 366

{443} Lately the relics of St. Ambrose have been discovered in his Church at Milan, as were the relics of St. Gervasius and St. Protasius several years since. On this subject I received a month since a letter from a friend, who passed through Milan, and saw the sacred remains. I will quote a portion of his letter to me—

"Sept. 17, 1872.
"I am amazed at the favour which was shown me yesterday at the Church of St. Ambrogio. I was accidentally allowed to be present at a private exposition of the relics of St. Ambrose and the Saints Gervasius and Protasius. I have seen complete every bone in St. Ambrose's body. There were present a great many of the clergy, three medici, and Father Secchi, who was there on account of his great knowledge of the Catacombs, to testify to the age, etc., of the remains. It was not quite in chance, for I wanted to go to Milan, solely to venerate St. Ambrose once more, and to thank him for all the blessings I have had as a Catholic and a Priest, since the day that I said Mass over his body. The churches were shut when I arrived; so I got up early next morning and went off to the Ambrosian. I knelt down before the high altar, and thought of all that had happened since you and I were there, twenty-six years ago. As I was kneeling, a cleric came out; so I asked him to let me into the scurolo, which was boarded up all round for repairs. He took me there, but he said 'St. Ambrose is not here; he is above; do you wish to see him?' He took me round through the corretti into a large room, where, on a large table, surrounded by ecclesiastics and medical men, were three skeletons. The two were of immense size, and very much alike, and bore the marks of a violent death; their age was determined to be about twenty-six years. When I entered the room, Father Secchi was examining the marks of martyrdom on them. Their throats had been cut with great violence, and the
{444} neck vertebrę were injured on the inside. The pomum Adami had been broken, or was not there; I forget which. This bone was quite perfect in St. Ambrose; his body was wholly uninjured; the lower jaw (which was broken in one of the two martyrs) was wholly uninjured in him, beautifully formed, and every tooth, but one molar in the lower jaw, quite perfect and white and regular. His face had been long, thin, and oval, with a high arched forehead. His bones were nearly white; those of the other two were very dark. His fingers long and very delicate; his bones were a marked contrast to those of the two martyrs.

"The finding, I was told, was thus:—In the ninth century the Bishop of Milan translated the relics of St. Ambrose, which till then had laid side by side with the martyrs in one great stone coffin of two compartments, St. Gervase being, according to the account, nearest to St. Ambrose. He removed St. Ambrose from this coffin into the great porphyry urn which we both saw in the scurolo; leaving the martyrs where they were. In 1864 the martyrs' coffin was opened, and one compartment was found empty, except a single bone, the right-ankle bone, which lay by itself in that empty compartment. This was sent to the Pope as all that remained of St. Ambrose; in the other compartment were the two skeletons complete. St. Ambrose's urn was not opened till the other day, when it was removed from its place for the alterations. The bones were found perfect all but the ankle bone. They then sent for it to Rome, and the President of the Seminary showed me how it fitted exactly in its place, having been separated from it for nine centuries.

"The Government seems very desirous to make a handsome restoration of the whole chapel, and the new shrine will be completed by May next."

Thus far my friend's letter.

I have not been able in such historical works as are at my command to find notice of Archbishop Angelbert's transferring St. Ambrose's body from the large coffin of the martyrs to the porphyry urn which has been traditionally pointed out as the receptacle of the Saint, and in which he was recently found. That the body, however, recently disinterred actually was once {445} in the coffin of the martyrs is evidenced by its right-ankle bone being found there. Another curious confirmation arises from my friend's remark about the missing tooth, when compared with the following passage from Ughelli, Ital. Sacr. t. iv. col. 82:—

"Archbishop Angelbert was most devout to the Church of St. Ambrose, and erected a golden altar in it, at the cost of 30,000 gold pieces. The occasion of this gift is told us by Galvaneus, among others, in his Catalogue, when he is speaking of Angelbert. His words are these:—'Angelbert was Archbishop for thirty-five years, from A.D. 826, and out of devotion he extracted a tooth from the mouth of St Ambrose, and placed it in his [episcopal] ring. One day the tooth fell out from the ring; and, on the Archbishop causing a thorough search to be made for it, an old woman appeared to him, saying, "You will find the tooth in the place from which you took it." On hearing this, the Archbishop betook himself to the body of St. Ambrose, and found it in the mouth of the blessed Ambrose. Then, to make it impossible for anything in future [or anything else, de cętero] to be taken from his body, he hid it under ground, and caused to be made the golden altar of St. Ambrose, etc.

Castellionęus in his Antiquities of Milan (apud Burman. Antiqu. Ital. t. 3, part 1. col. 487) tells us that the Archbishop lost his relic "as he was going in his pontifical vestments to the Church of St. Lawrence on Palm Sunday. He found he had lost it in the way thither, for, on taking off his gloves, he saw it was gone."

It would seem from my friend's letter that either the Archbishop took away the tooth a second time, or the miracle of its restoration did not take place.

It should be added that the place in which Angelbert hid the sacred relics was so well known, that in the {446} twelfth century Cardinal Bernard, Bishop of Parma, was allowed to see and venerate them,—Vid. Puricelli's Ambros. Basil. Descriptio. c. 58 and c. 352, ap. Burman. Thesaur. Antiqu. Ital. t. 4, part 1.

That St. Ambrose was buried in his own church, called even from the time of his death the "Ambrosian," and the church where he had placed the bones of the two martyrs, Gervasius and Protasius, by the side of whom he proposed to have his own body placed, is plain from his own words and those of Paulinus his Secretary.

For the controversy on the subject vid. Castellion. ubi supra.

 

THE END

Top | Contents | Volume Contents | Works | Home


Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
Copyright © 2007 by The National Institute for Newman Studies. All rights reserved.