Saturday, September 26, 2015

Saintly Relics

Bones of a Saint in Munich

There are a lot of saints, how many, well a Google search reveals great disagreement.  There are about 2,600 on one list, but that list does not include saints recognized on the local level, and may early ones. Estimates run well over 10,000. Saints were humans, who did extraordinary things and are attributed with facilitating miracles.  Bodily remains of a saint are first class relics, second class relics are things that the saint touched - used - possessed, there are also third and forth class relics as I recall.  Relic collecting use to be a very active avocation in the church, not so much anymore.  In much of the world, disturbing the bones of a the dead, saint or not, is seen as icky.

I like old European churches, and these churches are where you find first class relics.  Frequently bones, sometimes hair, or blood, or bits of tanned skin; on rare occasion the entire saint - in a glass box for eternity.

A Saint in a Box, in Greece 
The relics of important saints were often portioned out, so that many churches could be dedicated to or have a shrine to that saint. The relics are enclosed in a reliquary, ranging from a simple box to an elaborate jeweller's  masterpiece.  Some churches have moved the relics into a dark or back corner, or inside the altar; but some are in good and clear view.


  1. we have one of those "saints in a box" in philly. too creepy for me. bury them already!

    besides, I don't believe in this nonsense anyway.

  2. Saintly relics used to be 'big business' it is a fascinating history.