Henry Garnett was an English Jesuit priest who was implicated in the Gunpowder Plot, tried for treason and executed on 3 May 1606. After the executioner threw his severed head into a straw-lined basket, a Catholic in the crowd took one of the straw husks, covered in the priest’s blood, as a memento. Later, it was reported, he noticed that the blood stain on the straw had taken the shape of the “perfect face” of Henry Garnett. To believers, the straw became a miraculous and much-treasured relic of a holy man who had laid down his life for his faith.
Smuggled out of the country, it ended up in the possession of French Jesuits and disappeared, nearly two centuries later, in the chaos of the French Revolution.