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

3.63 of 5 stars 3.63  ·  rating details  ·  197 ratings  ·  67 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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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
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...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The Da Vinci code of holy foreskin relics.....
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...more
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...more
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
Tina Marie
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
Stephen Weber
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Tracy Graziani
I couldn't tell to the last time I had this much fun reading a book. The characters, the story, the adventure--absurd an wonderful!
Scott Hamilton
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
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
This book was very interesting and well worth reading, particularly for anyone who is interested in Italy and the Catholic Church.
Mary Morris
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...more
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...more
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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...more
I love expatraite-living-in-Europe tales, and this one didn't fail. Not only did Farley describe amusing experiences living in Italy, we learn a great deal about an obscure relic, the Holy Foreskin. (OK, at least I didn't know this existed....)

Looking for an adventure, Farley and his wife move to a very small town in Italy where the Holy Foreskin is said to have been for hundreds of years. Lots of Catholic history later, we learn that there have been many supposed Holy Foreskins, and many tales...more
I won a free copy of this book through First Reads (thanks Goodreads!). The topic sounded fascinating and quirky, and it is, but unfortunately I was not impressed with the writing or storytelling in this book. It probably would have worked as a long magazine article, but as a book, it was a bit slow, there wasn't much "there" there, and I wasn't particularly impressed with the way the author portrayed his characters. He talked multiple times about how the people and the town of Calcata were the...more
The author rambled and repeated himself often. I thought the histories of the relics were interesting, but the title is correct in that it was irreverent. The parts about Italian culture were funny because I live here. If I didn't, I'm not sure I would have gotten it as much. I don't think I would have liked to know him and then have my "dirty laundry aired" for all to read.
This book had a promising start and maintained my own irreverent curiousuty. It needed a good edit though. A few times he lost the thread or continuity and threw in a reference without explaining or introducing ir. The tone was inconsitent as well. Farley couldn't decide if he was a smart-ass or a serious scholar and wavered back and forth. He came off as more than a little smug.

All that said, I knew nothing about the history of relics and very little about the early Christian church. Although F...more
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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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