AUTHOR:Robyn Malo
SOURCE:The Chaucer Review 43 no1 82-102 2008

    When Chaucer the pilgrim introduces the Pardoner in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, he makes it clear that we should pay special attention to the Pardoner's relics. The General Prologue portrait affiliates the Pardoner with relic cults and pilgrimages by the pilgrim souvenir he wears,(FN1) but even more so by the relics he carries:

For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
Which that he seyde was Oure Lady veyl;
He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl
That Seint Peter hadde, whan that he wente
Upon the see, til Jhesu Crist hym hente.
He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
A povre person dwellynge upon lond,
Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye;
And thus, with feyned flaterye and japes,
He made the person and the peple his apes.

    (I 694-706)
    Of the forty-five lines allocated to describing the Pardoner, four describe his singing, three his traveling companion and personal history, fourteen his physical appearance (including Chaucer's notorious speculation that he is "a geldyng or a mare" [I 691]), and six his ecclesiastical role and preaching. Chaucer devotes no fewer than eighteen lines to describing the Pardoner's relics, and in his own prologue, the Pardoner himself calls attention to his "sholder-boon/Which that was of an hooly Jewes sheep" (VI 350-51), among other relics. The amount of space allocated to relics clearly shows their importance to Chaucer's conception of the Pardoner.
    In the sixteenth century neither John Heywood nor Thomas More missed this emphasis. Heywood's 1533 play The Pardoner and the Frere satirizes a corrupt pardoner who, like Chaucer's Pardoner, uses relics to make money.(FN2) Heywood lifts from Chaucer phrases such as "Here is a mytten eke, as ye may se"(FN3) and "I shewe ye of a holy Jewes shepe/A bone,"(FN4) and he augments the General Prologue's eighteen lines on relics to eighty-one. Relics are paramount even in Heywood's stage directions: "In the meane whyle entreth the Pardoner with all his relyques, to declare what eche of them ben, and the hole power and vertu thereof."(FN5) And in More's 1529 Dialogue against Heresy -- a work that, unlike Heywood's play, defends relics and their appropriate veneration -- the Messenger, a character who questions the More-persona on matters of orthodoxy and faith, dismisses relics by observing that people often venerate "some olde rotten bone that was heppely some tyme as Chaucer sayth a bone of some holy Iewes shepe."(FN6) As Alastair Minnis has observed, the Messenger is very "aware of Chaucer's Pardoner."(FN7) I would add that both More and Heywood were very aware of Chaucer's Pardoner's relics, and that they highlighted these relics at the expense of some of the Pardoner's other attributes.
    Unlike Heywood and More, modern readers of Chaucer have often passed over the Pardoner's relics. Indeed, most medieval scholarship on Chaucer's Pardoner has not taken account of the significance of relics within late medieval culture in general. Few studies have examined the Pardoner's relics (and the Pardoner's presentation of them) with reference to medieval devotional practices -- and those that have done so frequently elide distinctions between various kinds of relics.(FN8) Siegfried Wenzel has sought to counter some inherited assumptions about relics in general (including the notion that pardoners were never associated with relics); Wenzel also debunked the idea that the Pardoner sells relics.(FN9) However, his work does not incorporate the conventions of relic cults into an interpretation of the Pardoner and does not examine the relics Chaucer's character claims to have. Nor does Seeta Chaganti explore the history of relics and their cults in her assessment of the Pardoner; instead, she focuses on the ways in which relics and reliquaries correspond to poetic language.(FN10) Chaganti and Wenzel are nonetheless exceptions to a critical discussion that foregrounds the Pardoner's gender-identity and sexual proclivities,(FN11) his status as a preacher, his moral decrepitude, and the quality of his rhetoric.(FN12) These issues are vital to the Pardoner's character, and the Pardoner cannot be adequately understood without taking into account his physicality, morality, preaching, and even sexuality. But it is equally difficult to understand the Pardoner's character without taking into account his relics and how he handles them. By making Canterbury the destination of the pilgrimage, Chaucer identifies relics and relic shrines as the ostensible reason for his characters getting together in the first place. And of these pilgrims, the Pardoner is the most explicitly associated with relics; in fact, he manipulates his relics (physically and rhetorically) in order to make a living.
    Here, I will argue that Chaucer depicts the Pardoner as a parodic relic custodian.(FN13) A relic custodian's special job was to care for the remains of the saints: he guarded, regulated, and controlled relics, and the access to them.(FN14) Relic custodians kept careful surveillance over pilgrims as well; hence their presence was crucial to the devotional practices of relic cults.(FN15) The Pardoner in some ways resembles such an officer: his occupation similarly requires him to control his relics and dictate the conditions of access to them. He can be thought of as a kind of private entrepreneur who tries to capitalize on a well-established system relating to the custody of relics. Though his relics are fake, his character still serves to satirize relic custodians, who similarly guarded and regulated contact with their (presumably real and supposedly holy) objects. More to the point, the Pardoner, his legitimate historical counterparts, and his European analogues in Boccaccio and Masuccio sought to occlude relics -- whether by rhetoric, as in the Pardoner's case, or by means of elaborate shrines, as in the case of (for example) cathedral relic-keepers. The power that relics were thought to have should thus be understood as both political and spiritual, since, by controlling relics (through the relic custodian), the institutional Church served as a gateway to God's grace for the pilgrim or supplicant. The Pardoner's position as an illegitimate, immoral relic custodian thereby enables -- even necessitates -- a discussion of institutional power and control.

    In the Middle Ages the business of displaying and accessing relics was diverse and complex. As cultural phenomena, pilgrimage and relic cults were widespread and difficult to monitor -- with great gaps between theological theory (which insisted that relics ought to be carefully regulated)(FN16) and demotic practice (which at its most extreme included physically assaulting a holy body in order to obtain a relic).(FN17) Relics themselves were similarly diverse and difficult to monitor: they came in different sizes and types, and not even body-part relics were all considered to be equal.(FN18) Nineteenth-century canon law codifies two kinds of relics -- notable and non-notable relics -- and these categories can be seen to apply equally well to the various types of relics that proliferated in medieval Europe. Notable relics must always consist of a body part, and, as a rule, they must be bigger (and better) than their non-notable counterparts. Non-notable relics extend to include the smaller or less important body parts of saints, as well as the material objects associated with the saints. Moreover, while all notable relics are body-part relics, not all body-part relics are large enough to be considered notable.(FN19) In short, size matters. Medieval treatment of various kinds of relics bears out a real, if not completely consistent, differentiation between notable and non-notable relics. Non-notable, "miscellaneous" relics were sometimes -- possibly even often -- carried about by their owners. But as Mark Spurrell points out, "a whole relic," which consisted of a "certain minimum quantity," would have been "treated more deliberately" and enshrined more carefully.(FN20) Though he does not use the terms "notable" or "non-notable," it is clear that Spurrell is talking about the distinction between non-notable (the "smallest" body-part relics) and notable ("whole") relics. Non-notable relics were far more widely dispersed, easily accessible, and open to abuses than their notable counterparts.(FN21) What is more, these relics were treated differently because they were not regarded by clergy or laity as being as powerful as the often less accessible, carefully enshrined notable relics.(FN22)
    "Relik" is hence a complex term,(FN23) and it is essential to keep its sub-categories in mind when pilgrims or supplicants succeed or fail to access relics in medieval literary texts. This distinction is important for the Pardoner, for his relics were certainly available to his audiences. Guibert of Nogent scathingly comments about such availability:

We repeatedly see [the cult of saints] trivialized through gossip and made an object of ridicule through the dragging around of reliquaries. Daily we see someone's pockets completely emptied by the lies of those whom Jerome called 'rabble rousers' from their rabid style of speech.(FN24)

    The Pardoner's artifacts -- and the relics of other traveling and immoral relic custodians, as Guibert so forcefully declares(FN25) -- are not notable relics, however. Instead, they are (fake) non-notable relics, and as such were not regarded as seriously as the relics carefully enshrined in cathedrals. It is thus no surprise that it was not difficult for the pilgrims to approach the Pardoner's relics, and it makes sense that he is not typically thought of as hiding his wares. He has elaborate methods of displaying his relics, in fact, and by his own account, he exhibits them, dips them in wells to make healing potions, and offers them for veneration when it suits him to do so. At first glance, in other words, what the Pardoner does with his relics seems hardly in keeping with the hidden and guarded relics at Canterbury Cathedral. This difference is, however, a crucial part of the point. By creating a character who is modeled on historical relic custodians, but who carries and permits his audiences to see patently fake, non-notable relics, Chaucer works within a literary and historical tradition that was concerned with whether pilgrims and laypeople would get too close to relics on the one hand, and concerned on the other that, when pilgrims or other laypeople were offered the chance to get close to non-notable relics, the relics could well be fakes. By contrast, at least some notable relics believed to be genuine (such as Becket's bones at Canterbury) were often jealously guarded and rarely exposed to the public-at-large.
    Recent architectural and historical scholarship suggests that, throughout the Middle Ages in England, getting close to notable relics was not as easy as has often been supposed.(FN26) This work illustrates that shrines were often occluded by their position in the cathedral. Some shrines, such as Becket's, were located behind the high altar, and hence behind reredoses (sometimes as high as forty feet) and choir or rood screens. Many other reliquaries at Canterbury were similarly opaque and difficult to reach;(FN27) Erasmus's account testifies to the predominance of opaque, gilded, and gem-encrusted reliquaries at Canterbury, where even he was not allowed the privilege of seeing Becket's bones;(FN28) and Becket's many relic custodians would have participated in the occlusion of his relics by the way in which they controlled pilgrim behavior at the shrine. Elsewhere, the shrines of Saint Swithun at Winchester and Saint William at York were both located inside the quire until the late fifteenth century, a position that, practically speaking, made access nearly impossible for many, if not most, pilgrims.
    And the shrines themselves were often not simply opaque but enormous. William of York's shrine base, built in 1472, and still extant at the Yorkshire Museum, is eleven feet high.(FN29) Moreover, many of these major shrines were subject to a sort of "Russian nesting dolls" effect: the gilded and gem-encrusted shrines were themselves often contained by shrine canopies, that is, wooden structures that operated on a pulley system and could conceal even the shrine from view. In short, we must revisit the notion that all relics were easy to get at, for many shrines -- let alone their contents -- were probably not that easy to see or touch. As Ellen Shortell has noted, at least some relics kept in cathedral feretory chapels were "displayed and yet at the same time concealed within reliquaries and behind choir screens."(FN30) This strategy of material occlusion prompts skepticism over assertions that, as in the anonymous Tale of Beryn, "the holy relikis [at Canterbury], ech man with his mowith/Kissid, as a goodly monke þe names told & taugt."(FN31) I wonder what relics the Beryn poet had in mind: were these "holy relikis" supposed to be those of Becket? If so, his account probably plays fast and loose with the actual practice. It seems unlikely that these (quite average) pilgrims would have had such unfettered access to them when even Erasmus, who certainly saw more than most, did not. Erasmus and his companion did kiss what was probably Thomas of Canterbury's bloodied "face-cloth," or sudarium, and were offered an arm (with bits of flesh still attached) to kiss; at least some (prestigious, privileged) supplicants, then, occasionally managed intimate physical contact with certain relics, perhaps most usually anonymous or non-notable ones.(FN32) Nevertheless, given that what we know of historical practices disagrees with the Beryn poet's literary presentation of events, I suspect that the Beryn poet imagined the pilgrims kissing the ornamented containers of relics rather than the precious contents themselves.
    A miracle narrative in Wulfstan of Winchester's tenth-century Narracio metrica S. Swithuno illustrates very well how certain notable relics could be carefully guarded and difficult to access. This anecdote effectively brings out the conventional roles of both the supplicant and the relic custodian -- conventions informing Chaucer's presentation of the Pardoner, as discussed below. In this miracle, a mistreated and virtuous slave girl is miraculously transported to the innermost sanctuary of Swithun's shrine, where his body was housed.(FN33) She has thus penetrated one of the holiest sites in the church, a place that was usually locked and kept under careful surveillance.(FN34) Once the slave girl is actually at the shrine, Wulfstan introduces Eadsige, a monk who has been entrusted with guarding Swithun's remains; he is a relic custodian at Winchester. Eadsige does not simply marvel that this woman has been locked within "the holy enclosure," but accuses her of "presumption":

"Tell me, woman, who locked you in this chamber, in which all of us now see you standing? What presumption [presumptio] persuaded you to enter the holy enclosure in which the bones of our wondrous patron [ossa patroni] lie in peace? By what means were you able to conceal yourself when the sanctuary was closed, since I didn't see you when I locked these doors shut [te quia non uidi claue hec cum limina clause]?"(FN35)

    It is clear from Eadsige's response to the slave that, generally speaking, supplicants were not permitted to approach the shrine so closely. Hence, Eadsige accuses her of disrupting Swithun's "peace" (requiescunt) and of violating the integrity of the "closed" (clauso) and "locked" (clausi) sanctuary (claustrum). Such a moment illustrates the contradictory ways in which many supplicants were expected to relate to the relic of a saint. At feretory chapels, supplicants would often be expected to seek close physical contact with relics and would be expected to venerate them;(FN36) on the other hand, they would be expected to keep a safe distance. Eadsige's outburst to the slave affirms that it is his job to control access to Swithun's body, and that usually he prevented supplicants and pilgrims from approaching this notable relic as intimately as she did.
    In spite of such moments, modern readers of the later Middle Ages have generally focused on the spiritual efficacy of relics and have not acknowledged the central intellectual (and practical) problem of access. Relics are often assumed to express a straightforward correlation between the heavenly and the earthly, rather than to express some aspect of human, material relationships. Hence, a relic is frequently identified as "a sign of holiness" that was "itself holy," a sign that was able to erase "the line between the material and the spiritual."(FN37) This assertion is certainly correct, but it emphasizes relics' spiritual importance at the expense of their political operation. And such an operation depended in part upon the regulation of when and by whom a relic could be accessed. Indeed, in order to control who could get close to them, saints' relics were often occluded by their shrines, which demarked the relics as holy, but which also (paradoxically) served frequently to hide and sequester the very things they honored.
    This strategy of material occlusion of a relic was, to be sure, part of what empowered it. As Patrick Geary points out, it was extremely difficult to determine the value of exposed relics:

Once removed from their elaborate reliquaries or containers, [relics] were not even decorative. The most eagerly sought after relics of the medieval period -- bodies or portions of bodies -- were superficially similar to thousands of other corpses and skeletons universally available.(FN38)

    Because many saints' bones looked no different than "thousands of other corpses,"(FN39) ornamented reliquaries were an essential means of manifesting a relic's value. Elaborate cathedral shrines provide substantiating evidence for Geary's remark that without "their elaborate reliquaries or containers," relics "were not even [considered to be] decorative," let alone spiritually potent.(FN40) Many beautiful glass reliquaries, often ornamented with gold, silver and/or precious stones, do survive from the later Middle Ages.(FN41) Clearly, many relics were visible to the lay supplicant. However, many notable relics were kept in opaque reliquaries, which in addition to occluding the contents and affirming their value, also allowed the custodian to keep careful control of them.(FN42) This control is especially demonstrated by the fact that most of these opaque reliquaries were kept locked and were infrequently opened.
    Just as some relics were professed to be authentic by their "elaborate reliquaries or containers," other relics were manifested as holy (were "ornamented," so to speak) by what was said about them, in saints' vitae and miracula, as well as in bulls of authentication and sermons.(FN43) Language -- what and how something is said about a relic -- works to demarcate a relic as holy, and hence accomplishes rhetorically what reliquaries do materially: it identifies a particular relic as worthy of veneration. For that reason, relic discourse works to affirm a relic's healing power (since this power identifies it as holy and authentic) and popularity (since a relic's popularity simultaneously affirms its efficacy). Relic discourse therefore features characters such as pilgrims (who desire to approach relics) and miracles that reward virtuous pilgrims and affirm the ascendancy of the institutional church. However, relic discourse also allowed some medieval writers to explore the fact that reliquaries obscured, as well as identified, the relics they (physically) described. Reliquaries, by identifying their contents as precious even while they hid those same contents, functioned both to classify and also conceal the objects they contained. Relic discourse similarly worked to distinguish, but also to hide (through rhetorical flourish), any given (alleged) relic. Put another way, there are two kinds of occlusion: the material/physical occlusion of notable relics, advocated by Guibert of Nogent, Thiofrid of Echternach, and other agents of the institutional Church; and the linguistic occlusion of exposed, often non-notable, relics.(FN44) In the case of the Pardoner and his European analogues, such linguistic occlusion is unscrupulously deployed to value non-notable fake relics (or simply outrageous ones) as genuine.
    In this vein, Boccaccio's Fra Cipolla (or Brother Onion) successfully presents a peacock feather as Saint Gabriel's feather -- one wonders what he could have done with the Pardoner's pillowcase or sheep's shoulder-bone. (One also thinks of the Host's reductio ad absurdum, when in a moment of anger he speculates that the Pardoner would try to pass off even his befouled underwear as a relic.(FN45)) In the European analogues to Chaucer's Pardoner, immoral relic custodians use relic discourse to portray common objects as relics, in effect hiding what these objects actually are by placing them in rhetorical reliquaries. These texts often satirize relic cults' corruption and relic keepers, but they also, by analogy, problematize material occlusion, which could actually (just like obfuscating rhetoric) misidentify the object contained in a shrine by hiding it from view.

    The Pardoner and his European analogues are immoral relic custodians whose livelihood depends upon -- as Caesarius of Heisterbach observes of corrupt relic custodians -- "carrying round the vessel of [a] holy relic, and extorting money by behaving dishonestly."(FN46) These analogues highlight the importance of the Pardoner's relics and of the Pardoner as relic custodian, since in these tales, fake relics and immoral relic custodians (rather than pardoners in particular) are the central concern.(FN47) Both Boccaccio's Decameron and Masuccio Salernitano's mid fifteenth-century Novellino present immoral relic custodians whose methods are remarkably like those of Chaucer's Pardoner. Boccaccio's Brother Onion and Masuccio's character, Girolamo, can be considered parodic relic custodians who dictate the conditions of access to the relics they carry. But they do not control access by physical or material occlusion. Instead, they use rhetorical occlusion or ornamentation in the place of ornamented and "elaborate reliquaries or containers."(FN48) They are thereby able to profess their artifacts to be valuable, and in so doing, they actually hide what their supposed relics really are (certainly not authentic relics!). These characters affirm Guibert's objection that it is not difficult to profit via non-notable relics. Guibert fretted that non-notable relics were falsely advertised and then exposed; so, too, these immoral characters (in contrast to relic custodians in charge of the opaque and gilded shrines of notable relics), physically expose their (non-notable, outrageous and patently fake) relics, even as they rhetorically occlude what they have by telling a lie about it.
    Brother Onion appears in Boccaccio's Decameron, in the tenth story of the sixth day. Onion's job, traveling to raise money for his order, takes him to Val d'Elsa, where the people are "stupid enough" to pay him for the privilege of seeing his alleged relics.(FN49) These include Onion's "most holy and beautiful relic" (santissima e bella reliquia), which is supposedly Saint Gabriel's feather;(FN50) a finger of the Holy Spirit; one of the ribs of the True-Word-Made-Flesh-at-the-Windows; Vestments of the Holy Catholic Faith; beams from the Star of Bethlehem; a phial of Saint Michael's sweat; Saint Lazarus's jaw bones; the sound of bells from Solomon's temple in a phial; the wooden shoe of Saint Gherardo da Villamagna; and finally, the charcoal used to roast Saint Lawrence.(FN51) His list could not be more ridiculous, and with it Boccaccio mocks the practice of venerating exceedingly implausible relics. But Boccaccio also focuses on Onion's method of displaying his relics. In fact, the plot of this story revolves around whether Onion can successfully present a piece of coal as a relic -- whether he can rhetorically occlude the coal so that the audience will venerate it as a relic. This situation comes about when two of his friends decide to test his rhetorical skill by playing a joke on him. They steal his "most holy and beautiful relic," which is actually a peacock feather, and replace it with a lump of coal. Their challenge is blatant: Onion needs to be able to manipulate this object rhetorically in order to construct it as a relic, but also to conceal what it actually is (just a lump of coal courtesy of his friends).
    Onion occludes his lump of coal, not by placing it in an opaque and locked container, but by narrating his method of obtaining it. His story, which includes a visit to Jerusalem and the description of many (implausible) relics, serves (like a reliquary) to identify his relics as precious and worthy of veneration. Once Onion has explained the provenance of the coal, he "opened the box, and displayed the charcoal. The foolish throng gazed upon it in reverent admiration."(FN52) Presumably the notable relics in cathedral reliquaries were often authentic relics, unlike those Onion claims to have. But Boccaccio nevertheless uses this moment to suggest a parallel between physically concealed relics, however genuine, and fake relics concealed by rhetoric. A believer in Onion's audience may "see" a precious relic, but this is not, in fact, what Onion has -- as the reader knows from the very outset. His rhetoric accomplishes what a physical reliquary might: it affirms that the "throng" has gathered for a purpose, and that the object of their veneration is genuine and worthwhile. That is to say, here in the Decameron, rhetoric functions as a reliquary -- figuratively, rather than literally, ornamenting and occluding an object of veneration.
    Masuccio Salernitano's mid-fifteenth-century Novellino, published (probably posthumously) in 1476,(FN53) operates similarly, featuring an immoral relic custodian who occludes (and valorizes) an object by categorizing it as something else. Masuccio tells the tale of an "unscrupulous Franciscan friar" named Girolamo, who "deceives credulous people with a spurious relic and a fake miracle."(FN54) Girolamo is clearly identified as an immoral relic custodian. Masuccio rails against greedy and ambitious friars, who "by hook or by crook" win "for themselves a bellyful of florins, in spite of the fact that such traffic [of relics and indulgences] is expressly forbidden by the most sacred rules of their religion."(FN55) In this story, the money-hungry friar comes across the body of a knight,

which either because it had been very well preserved, or perad-venture on account of the temperate manner of life used by the knight while he was living, or for some other reason, was still in so sound and perfect a state, that not only was every bone thereof well settled in its right position [che non solamente ogn'osso stava al suo debito seggio collocate], but the skin was in so little degree fallen to decay [ma la pelle in maniera immaculate] that, by touching the head, the lower parts of the body would move themselves.(FN56)

    In this body Girolamo sees a relic in the making. He decides to steal part of it "to be styled by him a sacred relic" (sotto nome de reliquia) and thereby to "sweep into his purse hundreds and thousands of ducats."(FN57) Masuccio's criticism of Girolamo, an immoral relic custodian who profits by what "is expressly forbidden,"(FN58) is certainly a satire of clerical corruption in general, but it is also a challenge to the manipulation of access to relics in the service of power and revenue in particular. For Girolamo does not simply steal a body-part and "style" it an anonymous, non-notable relic. Instead, Girolamo steals a large enough portion of the body to make the implicit claim that the relic he has and exposes is notable.
    In order to do this, Girolamo (like the Pardoner, below) claims a relationship to institutional authority, by professing that the relic has been passed along to him through a Patriarch and a Vicar. By extension, he insinuates that these powerful men approve of his enterprise. More importantly, Girolamo emphasizes the physical importance of his artifact:

I am now minded to bring before your eyes a most marvelous relic.... This relic is nothing else than the arm and the entire right hand of that most excellent and glorious writer of the words and deeds of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, Saint Luke the Evangelist, which precious thing the Patriarch of Constantinople gave to our Father Vicar. Whereupon this latter despatched me into Calabria therewith, for the reasons aforesaid, forasmuch as there has never been in this province up to the present time either the body or the limb of any saint whatever. On this account, my friends here gathered together, let each one of you in devout fashion uncover his head before looking at this precious treasure which our great God, more through the working of a miracle than through any act of mine, has granted you leave to behold.(FN59)

    Girolamo's claim is not as impressive as having Saint Luke's entire body (though it is eminently more practical). Nevertheless, it does seem as though Girolamo is suggesting that what he has is very powerful -- for surely the forearm that wrote the Gospel would have been considered a notable relic. Girolamo maintains that his body-part relic is not small; he is careful to say that he has "the arm and the entire right hand" (cioè un braccio con la mano destra intera) that Saint Luke used to write the Gospel. This is no small claim for any relic. Finally, Girolamo reminds the audience that there has never been a notable relic (not "the body or the limb of any saint whatever") in their area of the country. This occasion is, therefore, according to the friar, a momentous one. If his claims were true, he would be right on more than one count: first, because such a relic had never before been there, and second, because such relics were not normally displayed openly. Moreover, his emphasis on sight in this passage (monstrare and di vedere vi ha concesso) is especially tantalizing, since he is promising to expose the very kind of relic that would typically have been most sequestered and most inaccessible.(FN60)

    The Pardoner similarly uses rhetoric to conceal his counterfeit relics, and Chaucer exploits the ambiguity of the word male to suggest a relationship between the Pardoner's rhetoric and reliquaries. For male certainly denotes 'bag, pouch' or 'packsaddle,' as it is glossed by the MED,(FN61) but it should also be understood to mean, second, the 'storehouse' of memory, and third, 'reliquary.' The word male is twice associated with the Pardoner: once in the General Prologue and once in the Pardoner's Tale. Both times, the word signifies a container for the Pardoner's relics: "in his male" the Pardoner carries "a pilwe-beer,/Which that he seyde was Oure Lady veyl" (I 694-95); and the Pardoner himself claims that he has "relikes and pardoun in my male,/As faire as any man in Engelond" (VI 920-21). It seems reasonable that, since it is where he keeps his relics, male could signify a reliquary, rather than (or in addition to) a saddlebag. This is a logical enough supposition on its own, but it is supported by the association between male and another word that also, metaphorically, referred to both memory and also to relics or (metonymically) to reliquaries. The Latin thesaurus could designate the 'storehouse' of memory, relics, or even reliquaries(FN62) -- it is certainly intuitive to imagine that male could be similarly flexible in its meanings.(FN63) Thesaurus and male should hence be understood as relic/reliquary words, as well as money bag or storehouse words. The Pardoner's male should be read more loosely than the MED allows, as it could refer to any of three things: a saddlebag (as it is illustrated in the Ellesmere manuscript), his memory, or relics/reliquary.(FN64) The word's very ambiguity enables Chaucer to play with the concept of relics and their occlusion in various "strong-boxes" across England.
    The polyvalence of the word male also allows us to understand the Pardoner's "store-house" of memory as a rhetorical reliquary. Put another way, the Pardoner reaches into his reliquary, his male, to pull out his relics; he also reaches into his male, his storehouse of memory, to mystify these artifacts rhetorically. He obfuscates what he has so carefully that, when the Pardoner exhibits his relics to solicit money, he follows a specific procedure:

"First I pronounce whennes that I come,
And thanne my bulles shewe I, alle and some.
Oure lige lordes seel on my patente,
That shewe I first, my body to warente,
That no man be so boold, ne preest ne clerk,
Me to destourbe of Cristes hooly werk.
And after that thanne telle I forth my tales;
Bulles of popes and of cardynales,
Of patriarkes and bishopes I shewe,
And in Latyn I speke a wordes fewe,
To saffron with my predicacioun,
And for to stire hem to devocioun.
Thanne shewe I forth my longe cristal stones
Relikes been they, as wenen they echoon."

    (VI 335-47, 349)
    Before he brings out his supposedly holy objects, he predisposes his audience, by his rhetorical strategies, to believe the relics he will show them are real. He is specific about the order in which he does this, explaining to the pilgrims that "First I pronounce whennes that I come"; "thanne my bulles shewe I"; and, before he brings out his relics, he shows his patent "first." These actions serve to establish his authority and to demonstrate his rhetorical skill (it seems he always performs these actions in the same order). He continues to detail the sequence of information he gives the pilgrims: after identifying himself, showing his bulls and patent, "thanne telle I forth my tales"; and finally, "Thanne shewe I forth my longe cristal stones/.../Relikes been they, as wenen they echoon." It is clear, based on the sequence here and the Pardoner's repeated use of the words "thanne" and "first," that the Pardoner does not expose his relics until this point in his performance. Furthermore, his language -- "shewe I" and "first" -- indicates his (usually) careful control of the situation. The Pardoner shows forth his relics only once his audience has been adequately prepared to see them as such -- only once, that is, he has placed them carefully within rhetorical reliquaries.
    He has thus rhetorically primed his audience to "see" his relics -- which, as Chaucer the pilgrim tells the reader, are the worst kind of fakes -- as legitimate:

"Thanne shewe I forth my longe cristal stones,
Ycrammed ful of cloutes and of bones --
Relikes been they, as wenen they echoon.
Thanne have I in latoun a sholder-boon
Which that was of an hooly Jewes sheep."

    (VI 347-51)
    The Pardoner goes on to claim that this sheep-bone, if dipped "in any welle" (VI 353), will cure livestock. In addition, if the owner of these sheep and cattle drinks from the well, "His beestes and his stoor shal multiplie" (VI 365). The Pardoner then introduces the "miteyn eek, that ye may se," which multiplies grain. Already, the Pardoner has spent a considerable amount of time (forty-one of fifty-nine lines) delineating the miraculous powers of his relics. Like Onion, Girolamo, or Heywood's Pardoner, Chaucer's Pardoner carefully regulates the display and use of his relics. His vocabulary in this instance is crucial: "Thanne shewe I" and "Thanne have I" indicate the Pardoner's possession ("have") and control ("shewe") of his relics. He furthermore exhibits these objects in a particular order -- first his bulls, then one relic, then another. The Pardoner manifests here the attitude of the seasoned relic custodian, who orders and orchestrates his display of relics to garner the best profit possible.
    By revealing his "entente" (VI 423) to the other pilgrims, he also reveals his intimate understanding and expert deployment of relic discourse, as well as his expert rhetorical occlusion of his relics. He is, by his own account, a very good relic custodian. Moreover, the Pardoner capitalizes on traditions of control and access in order to profit by his relics. He refers expressly to limiting access to his relics:

"Goode men and wommen, o thyng warne I yow:
If any wight be in this chirche now
That hath doon synne horrible, that he
Dar nat, for shame, of it yshryven be,
Or any womman, be she yong or old,
That hath ymaked hir housbonde cokewold,
Swich folk shal have no power ne no grace
To offren to my relikes in this place."

    (VI 377-84; emphasis added)
    The Pardoner does offer a remedy for this problem (he will absolve them of their sins). But by positioning himself as the pilgrims' intermediary, the Pardoner places himself between the pilgrims and his relics; they must pass by him if they are to "offren to my relikes." More than this, he demarcates the difference between those who, like him, have access to and control over relics and those who are dependent upon hierarchical power to access relics at all. Such people, if they do not follow the requirements of the Church (like confession), "shal have no power ne no grace" to access relics. And regardless of whether the Pardoner is actually authorized to absolve sin, he knows very well that confession was typically presented as necessary to accessing relics.(FN65) The Pardoner, in this moment, articulates one of the key terms for relic custodians, supplicants, and indeed for relic discourse as well: "power." For the Pardoner, no matter his state of sin, always has the "power" to access his relics. The pilgrims, on the other hand, are at the mercy of a corrupt relic custodian whose conditions dictate whether they will have any "power" to access his relics at all.
    As Cynthia Hahn argues, relics are "transmitters and indicators of power."(FN66) The Pardoner's emphasis on access and control (and indeed his own choice of words) thus underscores that power is one of the most important features of relic discourse. And yet, despite his self-identification as a man endowed with the "power" and "grace" to control relics, he is connected to the other pilgrims in his orientation to the Canterbury relics, which surely have a more commanding presence than the Pardoner's fake artifacts. When the company arrives at Canterbury, neither the Pardoner nor the other pilgrims will be permitted to see the most important relics, any more than Erasmus was granted access to such a politicized locus of power as Becket's bones. Moreover, when the Pardoner offers his relics to Harry Bailly, it can be read as a moment in which the Pardoner offers the Host the one thing that the Host, as a man who is leading pilgrims to Canterbury, would have known he could not get: intimate contact with notable relics. In the infamous exchange between the Pardoner and the Host, then, the Host could well be reacting to the offensive idea that access to patently fake relics could somehow make up for the obfuscation of many of the real relics at Canterbury.
    It is not difficult to see that a consideration of relics can enhance most readings of the Pardoner. Relic custodians, for example, were typically required to be chaste, which could inform our thinking about the historical importance of the Pardoner's "coillons" and his sexuality. And the intellectual and institutional history of relics complements Glenn Burger's observation that Fragment VI turns upon a "dismissal of lay desire" -- an observation that could surely be applied to relics in their devotional contexts, which may similarly have necessitated a "dismissal of lay desire."(FN67) So too, relics and their devotional practices can be seen to illuminate the centrality to the tale of indulgences, confession, and preaching. This interrelationship is especially important, given the emerging connections between relic translations, confession, and indulgences in England in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It would be fruitful to consider the link between the Pardoner as a purveyor of indulgences and as a manipulator of relics.(FN68) And certainly relics' devotional contexts can help us to understand the infamous exchange between the Pardoner and the Host, which foregrounds and even makes fun of one of the most paradoxical moments of pilgrimage: that pilgrims and supplicants travel many miles to get close to an object which, at journey's end, they may be able neither to see nor to touch. Frustrated "lay desire," indeed. By considering the Pardoner as a parodic relic custodian, we can entertain the possibility that, even for those who acknowledged the healing and divine power of relics and took no issue with their display or use, the infrequent display and strict control of relics was cause for frustration. In this context, saints' relics, even fake ones, demark moments of intense struggle and conflict, moments that show the ways in which, in the Canterbury Tales, the community is sometimes cut off from what they desire most.
    Purdue University West Lafayette, Indiana (
    I am, as ever, grateful for the support of Alastair Minnis, without whose feedback on countless revisions this article would never have existed. I am also much obliged to Michael Johnston, Christopher A. Jones, Lisa Kiser, Ethan Knapp, Shannon Gayk, Richard Firth Green, Dana M. Oswald, Michael VanDussen, and the anonymous readers for The Chaucer Review for their helpful comments and guidance as I prepared this essay.

1. This souvenir or badge is a "vernycle... sowed upon his cappe" (I 685). All citations are from The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn. (Boston, 1987).
2. John Heywood, The Pardoner and the Frere, in The Plays of John Heywood, ed. R. Axton and P. Happé (Cambridge, 1991), 93-109, at 94.
3. Heywood, The Pardoner and the Frere, ed. Axton and Happé, 97. Compare CT, VI 372.
4. Heywood, The Pardoner and the Frere, ed. Axton and Happé, 96.
5. Heywood, The Pardoner and the Frere, ed. Axton and Happé, 95.
6. Thomas More, A Dialogue Concerning Heresies, in The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of St. Thomas More, ed. Thomas M. C. Lawler, Germain Marc'hadour, and Richard C. Marius, 15 vols. (New Haven, 1963-97), 6.1:1-345, at 98; emphasis added.
7. See Alastair Minnis, "Once More into the Breech: The Pardoner's Prize Relyk" (draft of book chapter), 6. I am grateful to Professor Minnis for generously sharing his work in progress.
8. Such approaches often assume that the Pardoner's fake, non-notable relics could have had the same value as the legitimate, notable, and famous relics at Canterbury, or that a joke about relics necessarily devalued the relics at Canterbury. See Melvin Storm, "The Pardoner's Invitation: Quaestor's Bag or Becket's Shrine?," PMLA 97 (1982): 810-18. See also Eugene Vance, "Chaucer's Pardoner: Relics, Discourse, and Frames of Propriety," New Literary History 20 (1989): 723-45; Daniel Knapp, "The Relyk of a Seint: A Gloss on Chaucer's Pilgrimage," English Literary History 39 (1972): 1-26; and William Kamowski, "'Coillons,' Relics, Skepticism and Faith on Chaucer's Road to Canterbury: An Observation on the Pardoner's and the Host's Confrontation," English Language Notes 28 (1991): 1-8. For the Pardoner's relics as inferior and unthreatening to the Canterbury pilgrimage, see Islwyn Geoffrey Thomas, The Cult of Saints' Relics in Medieval England, D.Phil. diss., University of London, 1974, 15-18.
9. See Siegfried Wenzel, "Chaucer's Pardoner and His Relics," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 11 (1989): 37-41, at 38. For a more recent examination of pardoners and relics, see Nicholas Vincent, "Some Pardoners' Tales: The Earliest English Indulgences," Transactions of the Royal Historical Society 12 (2002): 23-58, at 54-55.
10. See Seeta Chaganti, Memorial and Metamorphosis: The Image of the Reliquary in the Poetry of Medieval England and France, Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 2001 (forthcoming as The Medieval Poetics of the Reliquary [New York, 2008]).
11. See, most recently, Glenn Burger, Chaucer's Queer Nation (Minneapolis, 2003), 119-31, 140-59; Richard Firth Green, "Further Evidence for Chaucer's Representation of the Pardoner as a Womanizer," Medium AEvum 71 (2002): 307-9; and Alastair Minnis, "Chaucer and the Queering Eunuch," New Medieval Literatures 6 (2003): 107-28. Carolyn Dinshaw's seminal work on the Pardoner, his sexuality, and his relics nevertheless does not contextualize relics historically; see Chaucer's Sexual Poetics (Madison, 1989), 156-84.
12. See Alastair Minnis, "Chaucer's Pardoner and the 'Office of Preacher,'" in Piero Boitani and Anna Torti, eds., Intellectuals and Writers in Fourteenth Century Europe: The J. A. W. Bennett Memorial Lectures (Tübingen, 1986), 88-119.
13. Relic custodians were generally referred to as custodes tumuli, scrinii, or feretri. These terms have various translations, including 'feretrars,' 'shrine-keepers,' 'shrine-wardens,' or, as I designate them here, 'relic custodians.' See Ben Nilson, Cathedral Shrines of Medieval England (Woodbridge, 1998), 130; and J. Charles Wall, Shrines of British Saints (London, 1905), 30-33. See also Robyn Malo, "Relic Keepers," forthcoming in The Encyclopedia of Medieval Pilgrimage (Leiden, 2009).
14. Cynthia Hahn speculates that relic custodians were responsible for restricting access to the saint and regulating behavior at the shrine ("Seeing and Believing: The Construction of Sanctity in Early-Medieval Saints' Shrines," Speculum 72 [1997]: 1079-1106, at 1087). Medieval English relic custodians were common at popular shrines. See Eric W. Kemp, Canonization and Authority in the Western Church (London, 1948), 120. See also Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 115-33; and John Hewitt, "The 'Keeper of Saint Chad's Head' in Litchfield Cathedral, and Other Matters Concerning that Minster in the Fifteenth Century," Archaeological Journal 33 (1876): 72-82. For an account of the duties of Canterbury's relic custodians, see Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 147-54.
15. See Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 105-110; and Ben Nilson, "The Medieval Experience at the Shrine," in J. Stopford, ed., Pilgrimage Explored (Woodbridge, 1999), 95-122, at 100-101. Observatory booths, two examples of which survive today at Oxford Christ Church (St. Frideswide) and St. Albans, sometimes aided in supervising pilgrims. See Sidney Heath, Pilgrim Life in the Middle Ages (Boston, 1912), 280; and Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 53.
16. See, for example, André Wilmart, ed., "Edmeri Cantuariensis cantoris nova opuscula de sanctorum veneratione et obsecratione," Revue des sciences religieuses 15 (1935): 184-219, at 184-85. See also Thiofrid of Echternach, Flores Epytaphii Sanctorum, ed. Michele Camillo Ferrari, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis CXXXIII (Turnhout, 1996), Book II.
17. Hugh of Lincoln, for example, was reported to have bitten off "two small fragments" from Mary Magdalene's arm (Adam of Eynsham, Magna Vita Sancti Hugonis, ed. and trans. Decima L. Douie and Hugh Farmer, 2 vols. [London, 1961-62], 2:169-70).
18. As John Crook points out, contact relics, unlike "saintly bones," could be kissed (The Architectural Setting of the Cult of Saints in the Early Christian West c.300-1200 [Oxford, 2000], 31). See also John M. McCulloh, "The Cult of Relics in the Letters and Dialogues of Pope Gregory the Great: A Lexicographical Study," Traditio 32 (1976): 145-84.
19. See Eugene A. Dooley, Church Law on Sacred Relics (Washington, D. C., 1931), 4-5.
20. Mark Spurrell, "The Promotion and Demotion of Whole Relics," The Antiquaries Journal 80 (2000): 67-85, at 67-68. See also Crook, The Architectural Setting, 25-31; and Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 1-5, 15-16.
21. Spurrell, "The Promotion and Demotion," 67, suggests in passing that the Pardoner is one of these abusers.
22. Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 2, distinguishes between "greater" and "lesser" primary relics that were not translated. If, as Nilson argues, translation was "among the greatest of medieval ecclesiastical celebrations" (15), it is surely significant that "lesser" or non-notable relics were excluded from this practice (see also 147-54). See also Crook, The Architectural Setting, 25-31; and Spurrell, "The Promotion and Demotion," 68.
23. The MED defines relik as a 'part of the body of a [dead] saint, or other material object associated with a saint.' This definition is certainly correct; however, it puts undue emphasis on what all relics had in common (association with a saint) and does not clearly outline the important (theological and practical) distinctions between body-part relics and "material object" relics, let alone the distinctions between notable and non-notable body-part relics.
24. "Crebro teri perspicimus ista susurro et facta feretrorum circumlatione ridicula et eorum, quos a rabie declamandi rabulos Ieronimus vocat, mendaciis cotidie cernimus alieni marsupii profunda nudari" (Guibert of Nogent, De Sanctis et Eorum Pigneribus, ed. R. B. C. Huygens, Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis CXXVII [Turnhout, 1993], Book I, lines 395-98). English translations are taken from Thomas Head, ed. and trans., "On Saints and Their Relics," in Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology (New York, 2000), 399-427, at 414.
25. Guibert underscores this difference between notable and non-notable relics: "Fraudulent deals are frequently struck -- not so much in the case of whole bodies [non de integris eorum corporibus tantae], as in the case of limbs and parts of bodies [quantae de membris et membrorum particulis fraudes fiant] -- and common bones [ossa vulgaria] are thus distributed to be venerated as the relics of the saints [pro sanctorum pigneribus]" (De Sanctis, Book I, lines 596-98; trans. Head, "On Saints," 418). Guibert here seems to equate "sanctorum pigneribus" not only with "ossa vulgaria" but with "membris et membrorum particulis," which suggests that Guibert's treatise is in fact addressing the problem of inauthentic, non-notable relics. Elsewhere, Guibert distinguishes between "corporum pignerumve sanctorum" (Book I, line 697), again highlighting that for him, "pignera" seems to mean non-notable, rather than notable ("corporum") relics. For a summary of the more traditional arguments about Guibert's treatise on relics, see Jay Rubenstein, Guibert of Nogent: Portrait of a Medieval Mind (New York, 2002), 124-72.
26. See Crook, The Architectural Setting, 31; and Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 34-91.
27. See Wall, Shrines of British Saints, 13-16, 19-24, 148-75. Furthermore, both Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 57-62, and Wall, 19-25, discuss the probability that smaller shrines were "perched" on top of beams and reredoses, at Canterbury and elsewhere. Such a location -- overhead -- would have kept the relics out of reach for all but a giant-sized supplicant.
28. Ogygius: He opened for us the chest [aperuit thecam] in which the holy man's body is said to lie [in qua reliquum sancti viri corpus quiescere dicitur]. Menedemus: You saw the bones [Vidisti ossa]? Ogygius: No, that's not permitted, nor would it be possible without the use of ladders [Id quidem fas non est, nec liceret nisi admotis scalis]. But the wooden chest conceals a golden chest; when this is drawn up by ropes, it reveals inestimable treasure. (Erasmus, Peregrinatio religionis ergo, in Opera omnia Desiderii Erasmi Roterodami, ed. L.-E. Halkin, F. Bierlaire and R. Hoven, 20 vols. [Amsterdam, 1969-92], 3:470-94, at 490). The English translation is taken from Craig R. Thompson, trans., Colloquies, Vols. 39-40 of Collected Works of Erasmus, 84 vols. (Toronto, 1997), 40:619-74, at 645; Erasmus refers to the canopy that covered Becket's shrine -- Becket's relics were hence contained in a "chest within a chest" (671).
29. I am grateful to Louise Hampson and to Andrew Morrison, curator of archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, who facilitated my visit to see this shrine base, which unfortunately is not on display.
30. Ellen M. Shortell, "Dismembering Saint Quentin: Gothic Architecture and the Display of Relics," Gesta 36 (1997): 32-47, at 32 (emphasis added); see also 41.
31. F. J. Furnivall and W. G. Stone, eds., The Tale of Beryn, with A Prologue of the Merry Adventure of the Pardoner with a Tapster at Canterbury (London, 1909), 6. The evidence suggests that pilgrims probably venerated reliquaries, feretra, floors, or even the massive stone shrine bases. Even Benedict of Peterborough is explicit that pilgrims kissed the tomb [ad osculum sarcophagi], not Becket's bones (Miracula sancti Thomae Cantuariensis, in James C. Robertson, ed., Materials for the History of Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury [London, 1876], 81). For the likelihood that relics themselves were seldom kissed, see Crook, The Architectural Setting, 31-32.
32. The less important non-notable relics that Erasmus was allowed to see at Canterbury are in stark contrast to Canterbury's notable relics: "We were shown a pallium, silk to be sure, but coarse, without gold or jewels, and there was a face-cloth [sudarium], soiled by sweat from his neck and preserving obvious spots of blood. These memorials of the plain living of olden times we gladly kissed" (Peregrinatio religionis ergo, 487-88; trans. Thompson, Collected Works of Erasmus, 642-43).
33. She is transported to the "innermost shrine, which was closed by lock and key, and next to the holy altar where the holy body lay" [Infra aditum claustri seris atque obice clause,/iuxta altare sacrum, iacuit quo soma beatum] (Michael Lapidge, ed. and trans., The Cult of St Swithun [Oxford, 2003], 335-551, at 498-99). Wulfstan does not mention the slave girl's fate, thus ensuring that Swithun's relics and the slave girl's proximity to them (which she is exceptionally granted because of her exemplary moral state) are the central features of the miracle story.
34. See Diana Webb, Pilgrimage in Medieval England (London, 2000), 85; and Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 52-53, 142.
35. Lapidge, ed. and trans., The Cult of St Swithun, 501.
36. See Wilmart, "Edmeri Cantuariensis," 184-85.
37. Lee Patterson, "Chaucer's Pardoner on the Couch: Psyche and Clio in Medieval Literary Studies," Speculum 76 (2001): 638-80, at 675-76. See also Carole Rawcliffe, "Curing Bodies and Healing Souls: Pilgrimage and the Sick in Medieval East Anglia," in Colin Morris and Peter Roberts, eds., Pilgrimage: The English Experience from Becket to Bunyan (Cambridge, U.K., 2002), 108-40, at 120; and Sarah Salih, "Introduction," in Sarah Salih, ed., A Companion to Middle English Hagiography (Cambridge, U.K., 2006), 1-23, at 1.
38. Patrick Geary, "Sacred Commodities: The Circulation of Medieval Relics," in Arjun Appadurai, ed., The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective (Cambridge, U.K., 1986), 169-91, at 174.
39. Hahn emphasizes the relationship between sight and the ornamentation of reliquaries ("Seeing and Believing," 1080, 1082-84); see also Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 21-25, 35.
40. Geary, "Commodities," 174; see also Cynthia Hahn, "The Voices of the Saints: Speaking Reliquaries," Gesta 36 (1997), 20-31, at 28.
41. For pictures of these kinds of reliquaries, see especially Henk van Os, The Way to Heaven: Relic Veneration in the Middle Ages (Baarn, 2000); see also Bynum, Wonderful Blood: Theology and Practice in Late Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond (Philadelphia, 2007), 13. The Virgin's milk at Walsingham and the Holy Blood at Westminster are two more famous examples of relics of the Holy Family, both of which were displayed in smaller glass reliquaries. On Walsingham, see J. C. Dickinson, The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham (Cambridge, U.K., 1956); and Heath, Pilgrim Life, 239. On the Holy Blood and its various pilgrimage sites and monstrance-like reliquaries, see especially Nicholas Vincent, The Holy Blood: King Henry III and the Westminster Blood Relic (Cambridge, U.K., 2001), 137-85.
42. See Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 34-91; F. T. Havergal, Fasti Herefordenses and Other Antiquarian Memorials of Hereford (Edinburgh, 1869), 143; and Wall, Shrines of British Saints, 1-33.
43. See Amy Remensnyder, "Legendary Treasure at Conques: Reliquaries and Imaginative Memory," Speculum 71 (1996): 884-906, at 887-88. On written authentication and its ambiguities in general, see Paul Bertrand, "Authentiques de reliques: authentiques ou reliques?," Le Moyen Âge 112 (2006): 363-74.
44. See Guibert of Nogent, De Sanctis, Book I, lines 602-35, and Thiofrid of Echternach, Flores Epytaphii Sanctorum, Book II, passim.
45. "Thou woldest make me kisse thyn olde breech,/And swere it were a relyk of a seint,/Though it were with thy fundement depeint!" (VI 948-50).
46. Caesarius of Heisterbach, The Dialogue on Miracles, trans. H. von E. Scott and C. C. Swinton Bland, 2 vols. (London, 1929), 2:70. The Pardoner's occupation also resembles that of relic-questers (Thomas, The Cult of Saints' Relics, 17-18). These quests were criticized in the thirteenth century because of the abuses -- such as extorting money from the poor or imprudent by displaying fake relics -- associated with "des quêteurs" (Nicole Herrmann-Mascard, Les reliques des saints: formation coutumière d'un droit [Paris, 1975], 306). See also Pierre Héliot and Marie-Laure Chastang, "Quêtes et voyages de reliques au profit des églises françaises du Moyen Age," Revue d'historie ecclésiastique 59 (1964): 789-822; R. Kaiser, "Quêtes itinérantes avec des reliques pour financer la construction des églises (XIe-XIIe siècles)," Le Moyen Âge 101 (1995): 205-25; and Pierre André Sigal, "Les Voyages de reliques aux onzième et douzième siècles," in Voyage, quête, pèlerinage dans la littérature et la civilisation médiévales (Aix-en-Provence, 1976), 73-104.
47. I am grateful to Alastair Minnis for drawing these continental analogues to my attention.
48. Geary, "Commodities," 174.
49. See Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, ed. Vittore Branca (Torino, 1984), 760. English translations are taken from Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, ed. and trans. Mark Musa and Peter E. Bondanella (New York, 1977), 109.
50. Boccaccio, Decameron, ed. Branca, 762; trans. Musa and Bondanella, 110.
51. See Boccaccio, Decameron, ed. Branca, 771; trans. Musa and Bondanella, 114.
52. Boccaccio, Decameron, ed. Branca, 773-74; trans. Musa and Bondanella, 115.
53. Masuccio Salernitano, born Tommaso Guardati, vanished from public record in 1474; his date of death is uncertain. See Masuccio, Il Novellino, ed. Alfredo Mauro (Bari, 1940). English translations are taken from Masuccio, The Novellino, trans. W. G. Waters (London, n.d.).
54. Alastair Minnis, "The Construction of Chaucer's Pardoner," in R. N. Swanson, ed., Promissory Notes on the Treasury of Merits: Indulgences in Late Medieval Europe (Leiden, 2006): 169-95, at 170.
55. Masuccio, Il Novellino, ed. Mauro, 43; trans. Waters, 65. Canon 62 of the Fourth Lateran Council, reflecting the opinion of earlier theologians such as Augustine, expressly forbade the selling of relics (Kemp, Canonization and Authority, 105).
56. Masuccio, Il Novellino, ed. Mauro, 42; trans. Waters, 64.
57. Masuccio, Il Novellino, ed. Mauro, 43; trans. Waters, 64. For a detailed study of shrine accounts and offerings, which explains the financial importance of shrines to their cathedrals and relic custodians, see Nilson, Cathedral Shrines, 144-67, 182-90.
58. Caesarius of Heisterbach, The Dialogue on Miracles, 70. This reference is presumably to the illegitimate trafficking in relics, but also to their unlawful use, both of which were forbidden in Canon 62 of the Fourth Lateran Council.
59. Masuccio, Il Novellino, ed. Mauro, 45; trans. Waters, 68.
60. For the dangers (and punishments) often associated with viewing notable relics, see Crook, The Architectural Setting, 34. Moreover, the desire to see a relic was often represented as a manifestation of curiosity -- a sin devout pilgrims should resist. See Christian Zacher, Curiosity and Pilgrimage: The Literature of Discovery in Fourteenth-Century England (Baltimore, 1976), 22; and Patricia Cox Miller, "Relics, Rhetoric, and Mental Spectacles in Late Ancient Christianity," in Giselle de Nie, Karl F. Morrison, and Marco Mostert, eds., Seeing the Invisible in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Turnhout, 2005), 25-52, at 29.
61. See also The Riverside Chaucer, 1267.
62. Thiofrid and many others regularly call relics thesauri, or 'treasure.' On the ubiquity of thesaurus and other treasure words for relics, see Christopher A. Jones, "Old English Words for Relics of the Saints," unpublished talk, 1-15, at 2-7. See also Albert Blaise, Lexicon latinitatis Medii Aevi (Turnhout, 1975), s.v. thesaurus. There, thesaurus is identified as 'trésor,' but also as 'reliques, corps saint' or as the 'trésor d'une église.'
63. Mary Carruthers refers explicitly to the Pardoner's male and suggests that the word was also used as a metaphor for the repository of memory (The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture [Cambridge, U.K., 1990], 41). On thesaurus as the treasury of memory, see Carruthers, 33; she does not, however, make the connection between male, thesaurus, and relics or reliquaries.
64. For male as associated with the mind or imagination, see Romaunt, B 3263-64; as associated with treasure, see Romaunt, C 6374-76. For more ambiguous instances of the word male (and another related word, purs), which might refer simultaneously to mind, treasure, and reliquary/relic, see CT, I 3115, VI 943-45, and X 26. For purs as another reliquary word, see Blaise, Lexicon latinitatis Medii Aevi, s.v. bursa.
65. Before Onion exhibits his relics, he "fatta prima con grande solennità la confes-sione" (first had the congregation recite the Confiteor) (Boccaccio, Decameron, ed. Branca, 768; trans. Musa and Bondanella, 113). Girolamo, for his part, promises remission of sins [remissioni di peccati] for those who give alms (Masuccio, Il Novellino, ed. Mauro, 46; trans. Waters, 69). For confession as integral to obtaining an indulgence at a shrine, see Nilson, "Medieval Experience," 114. On the connection between confession, indulgences, and relics, see Vincent, "Some Pardoners' Tales," 23-58; and Anne F. Harris, "Pilgrimage, Performance, and Stained Glass at Canterbury Cathedral," in Sarah Blick and Rita Tekippe, eds., Art and Architecture of Late Medieval Pilgrimage in Northern Europe and the British Isles (Boston, 2005), 243-81, at 274-79.
66. Hahn's argument (in "The Voices of the Saints") is so characterized by Caroline Walker Bynum and Paula Gerson, "Body-Part Reliquaries and Body Parts in the Middle Ages," Gesta 36 (1997): 3-7, at 6.
67. See Burger, Chaucer's Queer Nation, 122.
68. See Vincent, "Some Pardoner's Tales," 54-55. On indulgences, see most recently Alastair Minnis, "Reclaiming the Pardoners," Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 33 (2003): 311-34. Moreover, preachers typically accompanied relic quests (Sigal, "Les Voyages de reliques," 78); the examination of such characters might similarly illuminate readings of the Pardoner's preaching (see above, note 46).