The medieval miracle stories of St Nicholas are unsophisticated. One of these, BHL 6168, contains the following episode, which provoked a few unintentional chuckles.
…the blessed and chosen archbishop of our Lord Jesus Christ, Nicholas, when he was about to pass away from this light to the Lord in a wonderful way, and had completed a wonderful life, he gave back his soul to his most holy creator by an evident miracle. …. Then, having washed the most holy body of a holy man according to the custom, they [the clergy] strove reverently to preserve the linens [linteamina] which the living man had used, as being of use to many in posterity.
2. Now there happened to be a certain man, Jethro by name, who had come from a far country to consult the holy and most wise man. Here, when he found deceased the man whom he had been looking for alive, he began with great sorrow to beg the same priests and clerics, that even something of the holy man’s clothes [vestimentis] might be given to him out of compassion. …
Then the priests and the clerics, considering these things, and valuing such a request and the longing of the man, gave him one of the linens of the most holy man. Then, when Jethro had received the garment of the blessed Nicholas, with great longing he put it back in a new bag, which had not previously been used by anyone for any actual purpose.
I recall that in Boswell’s Life of Johnson, he remarks Johnson admitted that he had “no passion” for clean linen; that is, clean underwear. Just which “linen” did Jethro receive, one wonders?
It is worrying that there is no mention of washing the clothing.
And he went away happily saying: “I thank you, Lord, because I am carrying the relics of your most holy confessor.” I beseech you, Lord, to give me a son from my loins through these relics of the blessed Nicholas, for your honor and my joy, and public satisfaction.”
3. Now when Jethro returned to his city, which is called Excoranda, …. he began to build a church, outside the gates of the city on the east side about two stadia away. As soon as this had been completed, Apollonius, the bishop of the same city, dedicated it in honour and memory of St. Nicholas, storing in it that clothing with solemn veneration.
That is, Jethro wisely placed the church, and the reliquary containing the holy underwear, a good couple of furlongs down wind. For, as we read:
But when the relics of the holy man were placed in a suitable place, they began to emit such a smell [tantum odorem] from themselves that the fragrance [fragrantia] of such an over-strong smell [odoris nimii] extended for two full stadia.
Various miracles then took place at the church, restoring sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, etc. One can only hope that nobody sought a cure for a loss of the sense of smell. The odour of sanctity, it seems, is strong. Possibly St Nicholas should have sponsored a soap powder?
To conclude on an even more frivolous note, readers in the United Kingdom may wonder just what brand of underwear was preferred by St Nicholas. Perhaps he wore “Saint Michael” underwear?
Update (4 Feb 2023): For some real information about the Latin for underwear, rather than my persiflage, please see this excellent post by Michael Gilleland at his blog Laudator Temporum Acti here.