Punch,  41 (1861), 123.

Professor Owen on Relics

Boa Constrictor


Letter, Spoof


Religion, Religious Authority, Palaeontology, Controversy, Geology, Evolution, Extra-Terrestrial Life

    Discusses a passage in Freshfield 1861 in which the author recounts a meeting with Richard Owen, who observed that some of the 'bones of the 11,000 Virgins' in Cologne's Church of St Ursula, Cologne were the remains of dogs, cats, and other domestic creatures. Attempts to explain this by referring to a pseudonymous review of Temple 1860 in the Tablet, in which the author accounts for the fossils of extinct animals by suggesting that they were 'transported hither from some other planet [...] by the devil'. The reviewer noted that geologists who infer from these fossils 'a higher antiquity than what the Church allows' are consequently victims of a 'scientific imposture'. Argues that such a 'common sense' theory can explain Owen's observations on the grounds that the devil placed the remains of domestic animals in the Cologne church as 'bait to catch a philosopher', and also asked somebody to remove the 'genuine Virgins' bones'. Anticipates that St Ursula's tomb will contain the remains of a 'she-bear' and supposes that the statue of the 'Three Magi' may have been replaced 'with the crania of quadrupeds'.

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