The bones of St Josaphat

A while ago I wrote a post here about the story of St Josaphat, a story which itself had had adventures and travelled through many lands.  It began as a story about Buddha, but had crossed into Persia, then the Arab world, then Georgia, then the Greek world, and finally into the Latin world, with Buddha’s Sanskrit name (Bodhisattva) gradually changing as the story passed from language to language, and the religious background also changing from Buddhism to Islam to Christianity, so that Buddha becomes the Christian saint, Josaphat.

I came across a coda to that story in a book review* I read recently in the LRB:

In 1571, the doge of Venice presented a sacred relic to King Sebastian of Portugal: a bone from Josaphat’s spine.  It is still in a silver reliquary in the St Andrieskerk in Antwerp.

So a real flesh and blood human being becomes the subject of a legend.  The legend travels half-way round the planet, and there it is made real yet again.  I find that delightful for some reason.

* The review by Eliot Weinberger was of  In Search of the Christian Buddha: How an Asian Sage became a Medieval Saint, by Donald S. Lopez Jr and Peggy McCracken.

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