How Asbestos Was Used Before

Asbestos is now known to be a dangerous substance which can cause various diseases such as asbestosis and pleural disease. People exposed to this substance could have higher risks in developing certain cancers. But before asbestos was known to be a material dangerous for one’s health, it had different uses for different kinds of people. Kings and nobles have used asbestos to display grandeur, while scammers used it to create false relics.

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According to legend, Charlemagne liked to lay out his lavish banquets on a sparkling-white tablecloth spun from pure asbestos. After his guests had eaten their fill, the king would pluck the tablecloth off the table and fling it into the hearth. In the blaze, the cloth turned fiery red, but did not burn. When it was plucked out, it was cleaner than ever, with the debris of the meal roasted away.


The wondrous properties of the material made it a prime tool for the creation of false relics: its incombustibility served as proof of authenticity. Scammers passed off chunks of asbestos as fragments of the True Cross, and the monks of Monte Cassino bought an asbestos towel under the impression that it was the cloth Jesus had used to wash his disciples’ feet.

Asbestos has always been a strange substance in history. Where you find it, however, is even stranger.

More details about this over at JSTOR Daily.

(Image Credit: Aram Dulyan/ Wikimedia Commons)

Source: neatorama

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