Image courtesy nndb.com
Image courtesy nndb.com

By Christopher Zoukis


An ancient city, a major port long ago, along the Phoenician coast. Tyre was the birth-place of a rare purple dye used to color the garments of kings.  The secret ingredient to the purple dye was the blood of worms.

That was then; now it is called Lebanon.

Tyre had a church, once upon a time:  Cathedral of Mar Tuma, which, in translation, is the Cathedral of Saint Thomas.  According to tradition, the Cathedral was built around the time Jesus Christ suffered crucifixion.  Destroyed in 1291 by the Arab invasion of the city, all that remains of the cathedral are some splendid ruins.  Next to the cathedral was a necropolis.  Not much left of it either.

In 253, behind the altar inside the cathedral, a sepulchre was placed.  In it rested the body of a 69-year-old Catholic priest.  Anyway, that’s what Eusebius says, and Jerome, and they should know.  Some, though, say the 69-year-old priest died and was buried at Caesarea Maritima.   

The priest, while alive, was il castrato, that is, he had castrated himself “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.”  His motivation for such a shocking act of fleshly mortification was his literal interpretation of Jesus’ words, “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Such excess is overcompensation at the very least, and theomania at worst.  But it is indicative of this priest, for his entire life consisted of overcompensation of one kind or another.  He castrated himself for the kingdom of heaven, yet his interpretation of grace, and its function, earned him infamy and excommunication.

He was certainly the baddest of the religious bad boys.