Drama around skull and bones of Thomas Aquinas

The monks exhumed the “saint” because they feared the body could be stolen. His head was cut off, and kept separately.


head shrine

The skull of Thomas Aquinas is kept for adoration in a Church just outside Rome.

The story of the beautification of Thomas Aquinas is like a greek drama, a real spiritual tragedy.

Some French monks were desperate to secure the bones of the Catholic theologian, and felt his grave was unsafe.

This is what Ralph McInerny has recored in Christian History magazine no. 73

Shortly after Thomas Aquinas died, on March 7, 1274, miracles began to occur near his body. The monks of the Cistercian abbey at Fossanova, where Thomas was buried, feared that the remains might be stolen and taken off to a Dominican resting place.

Jealous of their treasure, the Cistercians took macabre precautions. They “exhumed the corpse of Brother Thomas from its resting place, cut off the head and placed it in a hiding place in a corner of the chapel.” That way, if the corpse were taken, the head would still be theirs. His sister was given a hand, a finger of which was to take a grisly trajectory of its own.  The reverent mutilations continued.

By the time the canonization process began in 1319, the corpse had been reduced to bones, from which the flesh had been boiled away. In 1396 the bones were moved to the Dominican monastery at Toulouse. The remains were relocated to the church of St. Sernin during the French Revolution, then returned to the monastery in 1974. They rest there today.

Source:  Christian History.

Lets look at two more pictures:

altar encasing


The skull of Thomas Aquinas is kept above the altar.

head and relics

The skull of Aquinas is only one of many “Holy items” in this Abbey.

Who gets scared that a dead mans bones would be robbed from the grave?

The Dominican monks exhumed the dead Italian teacher, and cut the head off the corpse.  Next, they kept the head away from the rest of the remains, to avoid being robbed of it all.

If someone robbed the bones, the monks would at least have the head.  It was then boiled to become a clean venerable skull.

They also boiling the corpse torso, arms and legs to separate the bones from the dead mans flesh.

The skull ended up as a “Holy relic” in the Fossonova Abbey outside Rome.

The bones has been kept in the Dominican monastery at Toulouse in France. Lets take a look at the pictures from France:

parading saint's bones

Roman Catholics in Tolouse parade the bones of the Italian theologian.

bones under altar

The bones of Thomas Aquinas is normally kept under the altar in the Monastry in Tolouse.

While the skull of Thomas Aquinas is kept above the altar in Italy, the bones rest under the altar in France. But only the bones are paraded on the annual feast day.

To rob a grave is bad enough. To cut the head of a corpse, and keep it safe from thiefs is ... I don't know what you call it.

Who were these monks afraid of?

Could the potential robbers, be others than competing demonized Catholic priests?

Who else is able to fight over “holy skulls and bones”?

His bones have also been widely distributed. Thousands might have a piece of His bones, sold as first class relics by the bone sellers in the Vatican.