Teplice, the oldest spa town in central Europe, this autumn plans to send the relics of a clergyman martyred in the 4th century to Dubai. The skull of St. Clari – the patron saint of spas and so-called ‘hot healing’ – will feature prominently at the Czech national pavilion at Expo 2020. While Teplice is a popular destination also for visitors worldwide, the hope is St. Clari could also make the town a site of pilgrimage.
Legend has it that before being put to death after several days of torture, St. Clari of Dalmatia had his eyes gouged out and tossed into a pot of boiling oil. Although a natural healer, the diminutive clergyman was no heretic; nor did he stand accused of some sort of black magic.
His transgression? St. Clari had baptised the daughter of a wealthy family and her lover (a common serf or slave), blessed their union, and performed the sacrament of marriage ‘in front of God’ but behind her posh parents’ backs.
It is said that St. Clari steadfastly refused to reveal where that young couple had eloped to, or to withdraw his blessing and annual the marriage. Legend also has it the clergyman-healer’s dog spent days by the freshly dug grave of his master, until removed by force.
For centuries now, St. Clari has been revered as the patron saint of balneology – a kind of traditional “hot healing” practised in spas similar to hydrotherapy. It involves a lot of mud baths, cold showers, and immersion in thermal mineral water springs.
The relics of St. Clari of Dalmatia, in what is today Croatia, were brought to Teplice in 1678 by a member of a prominent Austro-Hungarian princely family. Tomáš Jarolím, a former politician and deacon, explains:
“The history of his remains is directly linked to the history of the most famous aristocratic family in Teplice, the Clary-Aldringen family (…) who asked church officials, respectively the Vatican, to send the city a patron saint – specifically a patron saint of spas.”
Jarolím heads the European Initiatory Institute, a non-profit group working with the Orthodox Church to put Teplice on the proverbial map –as a pilgrimage site, a centre of spiritual life.
“In all likelihood, the remains of St. Clari will be the first in the world to be presented this way. I must note they will be presented as the remains of the patron saint of so-called ‘hot healing’, spa treatments – because Teplice is home to the oldest spa in central Europe.”
The relics were donated by Pope Urban VIII to Bishop John IV Marcus von Aldringen, abbot of a monastery in Austria, and kept in the family chapel until after the Second World War.
Now, they can be viewed on Sundays at the Church of the Exaltation of St. Cross in Teplice, in a 17th-century wood-glass reliquary.
Spa-goers are known to pray to St. Clari for good health, especially when it comes to aching joints. As the patron saint of the sanctity of marriage, he is also called upon to bless planned unions, or help heal those in crisis.