E. coli in the font

It turns out that God’s a comedian. Holy water is full of shit.

Despite its purported cleansing properties, holy water could actually be more harmful than healing, according to a new Austrian study on “holy” springs.

Researchers at the Institute of Hygiene and Applied Immunology at the Medical University of Vienna tested water from 21 springs in Austria and 18 fonts in Vienna and found samples contained up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water, none of it safe to drink.

Tests indicated 86 percent of the holy water, commonly used in baptism ceremonies and to wet congregants’ lips, was infected with common bacteria found in fecal matter such as E. coli, enterococci and Campylobacter, which can lead to diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain, and fever.

Nitrates, commonly found in fertilizer from farms, were also identified in the water. If ingested, water containing nitrates over the maximum contaminant level could cause serious illness, especially in infants younger than 6 months, which could lead to death if untreated, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Oh well, antibiotics will save everyone.



  1. Claire Ramsey says


    This is excellent news. Holy Springs! Full of fecal bacteria!!

    I’ll have to go to bed early b/c I just exhausted myself laughing.

  2. Markita Lynda—threadrupt says

    A friend saw Roman Catholics dipping their fingers in the font and crossing themselves as they left the church. She thought they were tasting the water, so she did, too. She said he had never been so sick after getting every cold in the congregation at once.

  3. left0ver1under says

    Maybe this explains why the Black Death spread so quickly across Europe. Close the churches, save lives….

    I hate quoting from wikipedia, but:

    The 14th-century eruption of the Black Death had a drastic effect on Europe’s population, irrevocably changing the social structure, and resulted in widespread persecution of minorities such as Jews, foreigners, beggars, and lepers (see Persecutions).

    Does this mean jews and lepers didn’t suffer as much from the disease and were thus accused? Was it because they weren’t touching the filthy “holy water” (i.e. jews and foreigners didn’t go to catholic churches, lepers weren’t allowed inside)?

  4. Argle Bargle says

    left0ver1under @5

    The Black Death was spread by fleas biting infected rats and then biting humans. E. coli was not involved in the Black Death, which also killed millions in non-Christian China and India in the 14th Century.

  5. says

    On a related matter.

    During the eighties when I lived at the back of Westminster Cathedral, there were many incidents relating to the two water fonts that were placed outside the front of the church. Very often when passing by the latter, a priest, who went by the name of Friar Tuck, not only because of his similarity in appearance to that legendary character, but because he was more than partial to altar wine. Invariably FT was to be seen incensed and red-faced chasing away the gentlemen of the street, as they had forever been using the outside receptacles on each side as urinals. So betwixt Friar Tuck, who was notably known for making loud slurps and hiccups at the early morning masses after drinking too much of the ‘blood of Christ’, and the pissing in the holy fonts by the unholy men they all certainly left much to be desired. A lot of the royalty frequented the cathedral on an annual basis. I often wondered did Prince Charles, ever bless himself as he left the cathedral?!

    I knew a man who made money galore over decades selling ‘holy’ water that came from a tap opposite his business. He was so shrewd that he even used plastic milk containers that cost him nothing to house the ‘holy’ water. He also took advantage of the popularity of the world-wide famous shrine by sticking labels on the bottled water which advertised that fact. The last laugh was on him, as he went off to the bank. I think it’s awful funny. Though, I do feel a trifle irked that pilgrims could be so gullible. The business man played on their vulnerabilities.

    I was reading somewhere the other day of a person who has a low immune system, and who therefore has to be very extra careful of hygiene matters. For example, she pointed out that she never eats nuts that are left in containers on pub counters, as the thought of consuming them after so many hands have been there is enough to make her puke. I think the same could be said about water-fonts, as when parishioners enter and leave their respective churches, they automatically dip their fingers in the water fonts and bless themselves. Some people even place the holy water on their lips.

    When people go abroad to places of pilgrimage such as Lourdes and Fatima, the done thing is to bring back bottled holy water in the shape of the blessed virgin for their friends. I’ve often wondered if the bottled water that people keep for years that turns green after a length of time is riddled with E.coli?

    When I lived in the country I went a couple of times as week to the spring to collect water. It was always so soft and fresh. I didn’t mind that the cattle from the nearby fields drank from the same well. So in light of following findings that the…

    University of Vienna tested water from 21 springs in Austria and 18 fonts in Vienna and found samples contained up to 62 million bacteria per milliliter of water, none of it safe to drink.

    It’s a real eye opener. People in Irish rural areas swear by spring water from wells scattered everywhere in their surroundings.

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