In the year 1228 CE, the hallowed halls of the Abbey of St. Albans became the focal point for an ecclesiastical council that would resonate through history for its discussions on the authenticity of religious relics and the burgeoning trade surrounding them. It was a period rife with piety and skepticism, where the sacred and the commercial often intertwined. The gathering of British bishops at this summit was tasked with verifying new additions to the Abbey’s esteemed collection of relics, a practice that was becoming increasingly contentious.
The conference was further distinguished by a diverse assembly of attendees, including a bishop from Greater Armenia whose presence would leave an indelible mark on the chronicles of the time. Despite the language barrier, which required the assistance of an interpreter, the Armenian bishop enthralled his audience with vivid accounts of relics and sacred sites he had encountered during his extensive travels. His narratives brought forth a blend of awe and curiosity among the listeners.
Among the tales he shared was the claim that Noah’s Ark rested on one of the mountains in Armenia, a tale that would have stirred both wonder and intrigue among the gathered clergy. This assertion not only added a sense of geographical sanctity to the Armenian landscape but also aligned with the biblical account of the Ark’s final resting place on the “mountains of Ararat,” as stated in the Book of Genesis.
However, the most astonishing account from the Armenian bishop was his dinner encounter with a man named Joseph, who professed to be the Wandering Jew—a legendary figure doomed to walk the earth until the Second Coming of Christ. According to legend, the Wandering Jew was present at Christ’s crucifixion and was cursed to live until his return. The bishop recounted that Joseph claimed to have been roaming the world for twelve centuries, a narrative that would have been both captivating and controversial to the Christian clerics.
Skeptical of such an extraordinary claim, the bishop reportedly interrogated Joseph multiple times, seeking the veracity of his story. The result of these intense scrutinies led the Armenian bishop to the conclusion that Joseph was indeed telling the truth, adding a layer of mystery and debate to the proceedings at St. Albans.
The bishop’s testimonies would have undoubtedly sparked discussions and debates on the legitimacy of such claims and the theological implications they carried. The traffic in relics, already a topic of much debate, would have been further complicated by these extraordinary narratives, challenging the clerics to discern between genuine articles of faith and fabrications.
Today, the account of the Armenian bishop at the Abbey of St. Albans stands as a fascinating anecdote from the annals of medieval history. It offers a glimpse into a time when faith was deeply intertwined with the politics and economics of the church, and when the fantastical could hold sway in the hearts and minds of even the most religious individuals. The story, preserved through the ages, serves as a testament to the enduring human fascination with the divine and the eternal quest for understanding the mysteries of faith.