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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

It is commonly supposed that our Lord’s feet were separately nailed to the Cross, and not placed one over the other and fastened by a single nail, as is the tradition in the Greek Church. Pope Benedict XIV., commenting on this point, pertinently remarks that it would be almost impossible to avoid breaking some of the bones of the feet if one rested on the other and a nail were driven through both. There would be danger in that case of making void the Scriptural saying to the effect that not a bone of our Saviour was to be broken.

Before the twelfth century the paintings representing the Crucifixion always exhibited our Lord’s feet nailed separately; and, therefore, four nails instead of three were the entire number that fastened him to the cross. St. Gregory of Tours and Durandus speak of four nails, but the latter writer also alludes to three without saying which number he himself inclines to (Rationale Divinorum, p. 537). From time immemorial the Latin Church has kept to the tradition that four nails were employed, and not three, and she represents our Lord as thus crucified (see Notes, Ecclesiological and Historical, on the Holydays of the English Church, p. 172).

It is commonly believed that one of the nails of the Crucifixion is kept yet in the Church of the Holy Cross at Rome, and that the cathedrals of Paris, Treves, and Toul have the others. When St. Helena first discovered them it is said that she attached one to the helmet of her son, Constantine the Great, and another to the bridle of his horse. Tradition has it that she threw a third into the Adriatic Sea to appease a storm. The crown of Italy contains a portion of one of these nails, and filings from them are kept as precious relics in many churches of Europe (The Sacramentals, by Rev. W. J. Barry).








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