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An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  247 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
A tour through the centuries and through a bizarre Italian town in search of an unbelievable relic: the foreskin of Jesus Christ. In December 1983, a priest in the Italian hill town of Calcata shared shocking news with his congregation: The pride of their town, the foreskin of Jesus, had been stolen. Some postulated that it had been stolen by Satanists. Some said the pries ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published July 9th 2009 by Gotham
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Bob Schnell
"An Irreverent Curiosity" is the story of author David Farley's search for the "Holy Foreskin of Jesus" relic in the remote Italian town of Calcata. Mr. Farley has a bit of an obsession with reliquaries and the possibility of solving the mystery of the disappearance of the foreskin proved too tempting. He moved his family to Calcata and spent the next year or so investigating various theories about who has the shriveled bit of skin and where. These include shady relic collectors, Satanists in Tu ...more
Jan 17, 2010 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
This has to be one of the quirkiest and most interesting books I've read in a long time. A food critic/travel writer decides he wants to go somewhere exciting and somehow tie it into work. So, him and his wife pick up and move for a year to Calcata, a medieval looking town 30 miles outside Rome. The town is infamous because its claim to fame for centuries was that its church contained the Holy Foreskin of Jesus Christ. This most holy relic disappears in the 1970's and the author is determined to ...more
Doug Lambeth
Nov 14, 2010 Doug Lambeth rated it really liked it
Quirky, odd, laugh-out-loud funny, strange, informative..."An Irreverent Curiosity..." is all these things and more. David Farley and his wife move to Calcata, a tiny, ancient town that's near Rome but is really a place that exists in another time and dimension. Farley is ostensibly searching for Calcata's claim to fame: the stolen relic known as the holy foreskin--the petrified penile leftovers of the one and only holy redeemer.

"Curiosity" takes a leisurely trip through the centuries, teaching
Aug 15, 2009 Leslie rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 08, 2010 Heidi rated it really liked it
Shelves: travel
The Da Vinci code of holy foreskin relics.....
Sep 03, 2009 J rated it it was amazing
I think someone said it on the back of the book in a blurb, but it really is true: if you're going to only read one single book about the foreskin of Jesus Christ, then you really want to read this one.


You read that right.

Join me, will you, in this particularly weird history of the Catholic Church as we discover the silliness that is the world of relics. For the uninitiated, relics were bits from the lives of various saints and others deemed holy by Rome. These bits had a hierarchy and diffe
Mar 15, 2010 Paul rated it really liked it
As one who was reasonably entertained by the "DaVinci Code," I found it interesting to consider how much different Dan Brown's books would be if his characters ever stopped running long enough to consider the utter absurdity of what they were "discovering." Maybe instead of encountering murderous zealots at every turn, they met a series of harmless goofballs with rather eccentric beliefs. The books might well resemble David Farley's charming "An Irreverent Curiosity."

The book tells the saga of
East Bay J
Aug 16, 2009 East Bay J rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, travel
I’m not and have never been a religious person but you add a religious relic, some history and a little archaeology and I’m tickled pink. With An Irreverent Curiosity, David Farley introduces us to the most bizarre religious relic of all, the foreskin of Christ. Seriously. The foreskin went missing in the 80’s, supposedly stolen. Years and years later, Farley and his wife moved to Calcata, a tiny town in Italy and former (or possibly current) resting place of this holy foreskin, so he could try ...more
Liked the book more than I thought I would at first. Foreskin hunt seemed a framework on which to hang tales of being an expat in a quirky Italian village. Author reminded me quite a bit of Eric Weiner (The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World), and while I wouldn't classify this book an outstanding must-read it was pretty good, and I'd really like to see more from Farley in future.
Tina Marie
Apr 21, 2013 Tina Marie rated it really liked it
Shelves: all-that-remains
I really wasn't sure if I was going to like this book or not but the title sure got my interest. Once I started it though, I couldn't put it down. I think this book is as much travelogue memoir as anything else & the search itself is as much of the story as the author's ultimate goal of actually locating the relic in question. The journey itself with all the interesting characters he meets along the way is a big part of the story. No, it's not a serious scholarly work, but it's my feeling th ...more
Mark Schroeder
Dec 15, 2014 Mark Schroeder rated it really liked it
Good book about a crazy little town, their church, town drunk, celebrity, cat lady and shifty priest in Italy. Makes we want to visit. The look at the inner workings of the church however and the formation of early Christian dogma was the real point here.
Mike Wigal
Dec 15, 2014 Mike Wigal rated it really liked it
All I can say is I'd like to visit the town of Calcata, Italy. It sounds as though it would make a great venue for a sitcom. As for the sacred foreskin...
Stephen Weber
Jan 27, 2013 Stephen Weber rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved the way Farley blends the history and contemporary culture of Calcata, Italy with the irreverent mystery of the title. Taking on the role of a comically ersatz Robert Langdon, he unravels the tales of the Holy Prepuce with skepticism, glee and a healthy sense of wonder at the human race and its varying shades of zaniness. Never judgmental, always self-effacing, he comes off as a trustworthy narrator and a damn good storyteller. Highly recommend!
Oct 13, 2010 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Great book! The strange relic of the title is the foreskin of Christ, but you're not allowed to use the term or you will be excommunicated by the Catholic Church! It disappeared (was stolen) from a church in a small town in Italy and travel writer David Farley tries to track it down. Definitely a strange relic, certainly a town full of odd characters, and without a doubt an entertaining read.
Sep 11, 2010 Mark rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Fascinating. Very much in the vein of "City of Falling Angels". Take-away so far: Small town people are weird (duh), Small town Italian people are really weird, Catholic tradition of relic worship is really, really weird, and Jesus's foreskin is one such relic. It only can get better...And finished. Definitely recommend this quick read. Fun and informative!
Feb 11, 2011 Carla rated it liked it
some weird grammar mistakes for a literature professor, ex. "his quaffed hair", instead of coiffed! and one he keeps repeating is a "couple blocks", a "couple miles", etc. Shouldn't that be a "couple of". Bottom line is I did enjoy the book, the quirky characters and topic (must find Jesus' foreskin) make it worth the weird writing errors.
Mar 31, 2010 Eoin rated it really liked it
Somewhere between travelogue, memoir, detective story, and participatory history, this book is genuinely funny. I'm a sucker for esoterica, but the speed and ease of the prose makes it a solid general recommendation. Not perfect, but with enough enthusiasm to hold it together.
Jan 31, 2013 Erin rated it really liked it
This historical travelogue is quirky, funny, informative - a story within a story. The amount of research that went into this book was astounding -- truly creative nonfiction. I don't know how David Farley did it, but I'm so glad he did!
Apr 26, 2012 Beth rated it it was amazing
Read this. You will learn a lot about church history, relics, contemporary Italy, culture shock, and food.

I can't tell you where the particular relic in question is though. Spoilers!
Nov 02, 2012 Becky rated it really liked it
Surprisingly engrossing! Farley moves to a hill town north of Rome and sets about unwinding two millenia of Christian history, myth and legend, surrounded by a group of helpful eccentrics.
Scott Hamilton
Aug 21, 2013 Scott Hamilton rated it really liked it
Fun book. I was more interested in the material about the history of Catholic relics than the details of rural Italian life, but well worth reading for either subject.
Marcia Stauber
Jan 11, 2011 Marcia Stauber rated it did not like it
One of the most boring books I have read lately. Save your money and skip this more. If I had not been on a plane I would have trashed it out the window.
David Simonetti
Feb 07, 2011 David Simonetti rated it it was amazing
This book was very interesting and well worth reading, particularly for anyone who is interested in Italy and the Catholic Church.
Tracy Graziani
Mar 27, 2016 Tracy Graziani rated it it was amazing
I couldn't tell you the last time I had this much fun reading a book. The characters, the story, the adventure--absurd and wonderful!
Mary Morris
May 07, 2009 Mary Morris rated it really liked it
This is an amazing, very weird type of travel book. It would be very funny if it all wasn't so true. And it's funny anyway.
Barbara Ell
This is less a story on a Holy relic and more on the story of what it was like to live for a year in a small village in Italy. Actually when you think about it, the Catholic church has pretty much done away with relics and if they can go away quietly all the better. But what happened to the Santissimo Prepuzio ("the most holy foreskin")? Did it just vanish? Was it stolen?

David Farley set out to find out, but along the way he ended up living in the small village of Calcata, Italy where it was las
Jul 23, 2009 Lyndele rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, first-reads
What can one say about the Holy Foreskin? A lot, it turns out, and all of it told by David Farley with the wit and reverence the topic is due. In An Irreverent Curiosity, Farley relates his search for the Roman Catholic Church’s “strangest relic in Italy’s oddest town” – a relic that disappeared from the medieval village of Calcata under mysterious circumstances.

The story begins with Farley’s decision (at the urging of his wife) to move from New York City to Calcata to search for the missing re
Feb 07, 2010 Kent rated it did not like it
On my first visit to Piazza Navona in Rome, I learned about the martyrdom of St. Agnes whose bones are conserved in the church there. Having spurned the amorous intentions of a Roman prefect's son, Agnes was dragged through the streets naked to be raped at the nearby brothel. Divine intervention caused her hair immediately to grow and cover her shame. Having protected her threatened pudeur and pudendum, God saw no reason to spare her life, and she was promptly beheaded. It occurred to me then th ...more
Oct 15, 2010 Leigh-ann rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 22, 2011 Chuck rated it it was ok
Here's a Jeopardy clue that you'll probably never encounter: "It was once a revered relic of the Catholic Church, but eventually it disappeared from the Vatican, and in 1900 Pope Leo XIII threatened excommunication to anyone who discussed it." Answer: "What is the foreskin of Jesus Christ?"

That's right folks, it's the Santissimo Prepuzio, often imitated, but never duplicated (although putatively real ones seemed to multiply faster than loaves and fishes). After being plundered from the Vatican i
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David Farley is the author of "An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town" and the co-editor of the essay collection "Travelers' Tales Prague and the Czech Republic: True Stories." He's a Contributing Writer at AFAR magazine and his writing appears in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Conde Nast Traveler, New York, and, among other pu ...more
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