- Tomb "perspires" with the death of a Pope and
is now dry.
- The cenotaph of Pope Sylvester II in Rome's Lateran
is a center of attraction for tourists and curiosity-seekers. All of them
run their hands over it to ascertain if there has been a change in the
level of humidity.
- Much like the coagulation of the blood of San Gennaro
in Naples indicates a victory for the soccer team Maradona played for,
Rome's Lateran Basilica of St. John is filled with tourists and
stealthily touching a tombstone at its entrance. When it exudates water,
they say, a Pope is sure to die. When it merely becomes damp, it heralds
the death of a bishop or cardinal.
- Two elderly Italian nuns in gray habits said that the
monument's power of prophecy is well documented: "It perspires when
the death of a Pope is at hand," said one of them. "The stone
weeps. It's true, it has happened. There are those who have seen it,"
added the other.
- All of them notice without staring, and if someone sees
them touching it, they laugh at themselves. Not very cinematographic, the
tomb is neither strange nor awe-inspiring. It is a cenotaph, a funeral
monument that does not contain any mortal remains. However, there is
talk about the sound of rattling bones being heard in the vicinity.
- Sylvester II was Gerbert d'Aurillac, the Pope who
the year 1000, and ruled between 999 and 1003 -- a man with a background
in mathematics and astronomy, whose fame was surrounded by a halo of magic.
It was said that he learned the art of divination in Spain from an Arab
wizard, a character reminiscent of Melchiades in Garcia Marques's 100 Years
of Solitude, from whom he inherited a book of secrets. According to legend,
Sylvester II made a pact with the devil and even built a golem -- a statue
in which he imprisoned the devil, who would answer questions
and "no" by nodding its head, like an oracle.
- The truth is that he was a good Pope, according to the
chronicles. He created the Polish and Hungarian churches. For some reason,
three years before the ascension of Polish cardinal Karol Wojtla to the
Holy See, the Polish Lady of Czestochowa was placed in the parish where
St. Sylvester is venerated. All believe it was a premonition from
- Sylvester died while performing Mass at the Church of
the Holy Cross of Jerusalem, next to the Lateran Basilica. His body was
intact during an exhumation in 1684. However, it turned to dust the moment
it came into contact with the air.
- Translation (c) 2005. Scott Corrales, Institute of
- Special thanks to Guillermo Gimenez.