A café manager in western Switzerland says he is planning to advertise an oyster shell bearing the image of Christ for sale on the internet.
Matteo Brandi opened up about his "Jesus oyster" after reports that an American woman had sold a piece of toasted cheese bearing the likeness of the Virgin Mary for $28,000 (SFr33,000).
Brandi, a 38-year-old Italian, told swissinfo he’d kept his special find secret for two years out of fear of making himself a laughing stock.
The devout Catholic was enjoying a dish of oysters with friends on Christmas Eve 2002 when one of the mollusc shells became stuck to his hand.
"When I turned it over I saw the image of Christ," Brandi recalled. "I was in shock. I showed it to my friend and he also saw [the face] straight away."
"It was stuck to my hand. It was as if he [Jesus] was calling me, in the sense that I had to discover this face."
He explains that he didn’t tell the Vatican about his find as he thought even the Church was likely to disbelieve him.
Brandi placed the shell on top of the stereo in his café where it remained for almost two years. Until the sale in November last year of the "Virgin Mary" toast, closely followed by the auction of a "Jesus fish finger".
"When I read the article about the toast and the fish finger, I thought why not tell the world about my discovery?"
Waiting for offers
Although he hopes someone will shell out for his oyster, the bar manager denies that by offering it for sale on the internet he is just trying to cash in on the trend.
"It’s not about money at all. I’m doing this so that people hear the story," he explained. He added that he was interested in hearing from the Vatican or museums that might want the rarity for their collections before seeking a buyer.
"I’ll wait for a few days... and then if I haven’t heard from the Vatican, I’ll make the first move," he told swissinfo.
Brandi says the discovery has not changed him, although his faith has perhaps grown a little as a result. But since the shell has been in his possession he has experienced the greatest happiness of his life.
"I had some difficult years... things were quite tough, but five months ago I had the greatest joy of my life when my girlfriend gave birth to our child," he said.
swissinfo, Morven McLean
A piece of toast supposedly bearing the image of the Virgin Mary sold for $28,000 last November on internet auction house eBay. In the same month, a Canadian man decided to auction a fish finger which he said bore the image of Jesus. In 2002, a resident of southern India made a chapatti which appeared to show the face of Christ. Thousands of Christians flocked to see it.End of insertion
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