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Mystery bidder buys head of saint for €3,500

Visitors queue for the auction in Co Meath at which St Vitalis's head was sold for €3,500. Ciara Wilkinson

THE reputed head of 14th-Century Italian saint St Vitalis of Assisi is on its way to the US after being sold for €3,500 at auction.

It was purchased by an unnamed phone bidder in Los Angeles during the sale in Duleek, Co Meath, yesterday.

St Vitalis was a Benedictine hermit and, following his death in 1370, he became known as the patron saint of those suffering from genital disease.

According to legend, the monk was a promiscuous youth -- but then repented.

In a bid to atone for his sins, he went on many pilgrimages to shrines and other holy places in Italy and Europe, before spending the rest of his life in poverty near Assisi.

The skull of the saint, enshrined in an antique glass case, had been in the keeping of a Co Louth family for many years.

It was included in an antique auction at Annesbrook House in Duleek by Oldcastle auctioneer Brendan Matthews.

Bidding for the skull opened at €2,000 and rose in €100 stages, before being sold in less than a minute for €3,500 to an unnamed phone buyer.

The sale had generated widespread international interest, according to Mr Matthews. "We received phone calls from all over the world about this -- from all sorts of crackpots and oddballs. We received about 100 different bids in advance," he said.

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