First built in the 13th century, and rebuilt after a fire started by cronies of France’s Louis XIV in 1689: the church of Saint James the Greater, Kostel Sv. Jakuba Vetsiho, in the middle of the Old Town of Prague.

When it was rebuilt, the basilica became a baroque masterpiece, adorned with elaborate frescoes and reliefs, vaulted ceilings, a famous organ, over twenty altars, and statues – one of which is responsible for a 400 year old mummified arm hanging on the church walls!

According to a pious legend, a thief entered the basilica to escape a particularly bad bout of cold weather. Spying a bejewelled statue of the Virgin Mary, he decided to hide in the church and remain until nightfall, planning to steal the jewels and flea under cover of darkness.

Creeping to the statue after the church was locked up, when he touched the jewels the statue reached out and grabbed his arm, keeping him there until parishioners discovered him.

Unable to free the thief from the statue’s grasp, they were forced to amputate – luckily for the thief, many of the parishioners belonged to the nearby butcher’s guild.

As soon as the limb was severed, the statue dropped the arm and returned to the normal pose of the Virgin Mary.

For over 400 years, that arm has hung on a meat hook in the narthex in remembrance and as a warning to others.

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