The Curmudgeon


Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Altar Sanctifieth the Gift

Some victims of the Orthodox delusion are annoyed because Westminster Abbey has on more or less public display a tabot, a religious artifact which was taken from northern Ethiopia in 1868 by some brave young men doing a wonderful job in difficult circumstances. The relevant threat to Christian civilisation, Emperor Tewodros II, committed suicide to avoid capture, whereupon his clothes were removed and his hair torn out by the glorious exemplars of the vigour of Victorian Anglicanism. According to Ethiopian custom, tabots are consecrated rather than buildings and their grounds as in the more enlightened western tradition, and nobody other than priests is supposed to look at them. The British Museum has thirteen tabots; rather than doing anything silly like returning them, it has agreed that they should never be handled by the curates or put on display, because the "material is integral to the museum's purpose, to tell the story of human cultural achievement". The Westminster Abbey tabot is inlaid at the rear of an altar constructed in 1870 and, in the words of a spokesbeing, has "never been made a great show of", although it is not clear whether its lack of prominence constitutes an entirely intentional show of tact. Faced with demands for the object's return, the Abbey has taken the Rowan Williams approach: the dean's office has proclaimed, "I don't think there will be any further developments. I'm sorry that this comes as a disappointment", while a spokesbeing has said, "We've never said we're not going to return it". According to the latter, the Abbey needs to take technical advice on whether the altar would be damaged by the tabot's removal, property values being so much more important than brotherly respect between Christians.


  • At 1:28 pm , Blogger phil said...

    All sounds a bit postmodern to me. Bloody cultural relativists, they're everywhere, you try to exterminante one and ten more pop out from behind the aspidistras.


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