Relics associated with Jesus

Relics associated with Jesus
Secondo Pia's 1898 negative of the photograph of the Shroud of Turin, associated with Holy Face of Jesus devotions.

A number of relics associated with Jesus have been claimed and displayed throughout the history of Christianity. Some people believe in the authenticity of some relics; others doubt the authenticity of various items. For instance, the sixteenth century Catholic theologian Erasmus wrote sarcastically about the proliferation of relics, and the number of buildings that could have been constructed from the wood claimed to be from the cross used in the Crucifixion of Christ.[1] Similarly, while experts debate whether Christ was crucified with three or with four nails, at least thirty Holy Nails continue to be venerated as relics across Europe.[2]

Some relics, such as purported remnants of the Crown of Thorns, receive only a modest number of pilgrims, others such as the Shroud of Turin (which is associated with an approved Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus) receive millions of pilgrims, which in recent years have included Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.[3]


Shrouds and faces

A number of Acheiropoieta (i..e. not made by hand) images reported to be of the face of Jesus, or have impressions of his face or body on a piece of cloth have been written about or displayed over the centuries. In most cases these images are subject to intense debate and speculation. Some images exist in physical form, others are only written about.

Although various devotions to the face of Jesus have been practiced, the term "Holy Face of Jesus" as used today only relates to the specific devotions approved by Pope Leo XIII in 1895 and Pope Pius XII in 1958 in regards to the image from the Shroud of Turin.[4]

Shroud of Turin

A recent photo of the Shroud of Turin face, positive left, negative on the right having been contrast enhanced.

The Shroud of Turin is the best-known relic of Jesus and one of, if not the, most studied artifacts in human history.[5] Believers contend that the shroud is the cloth placed on the body of Jesus Christ at the time of his burial, and that the face image is the Holy Face of Jesus. Detractors contend that the artifact postdates the Crucifixion of Jesus by more than a millennium. Both sides of the argument use science and historical documents to make their case.

The striking negative image was first observed on the evening of May 28, 1898, on the reverse photographic plate of amateur photographer Secondo Pia, who was allowed to photograph it while it was being exhibited in the Turin Cathedral. The Catholic Church has neither formally endorsed or rejected the shroud, but in 1958 Pope Pius XII approved of the image in association with the Roman Catholic devotion to the Holy Face of Jesus.

Various tests have been performed on the shroud, yet both believers and skeptics continue to present arguments for and against the validity of the tests. One of the contentious issues is the Radiocarbon dating in 1988 which yielded results indicating that the shroud was made during the Middle Ages.[6] Believers have since presented arguments against the 1988 carbon dating results, ranging from conflicts in the interpretation of the evidence, to samples being taken from a non representative corner, to additional carbon content via fire damage. Heated debate has ensued ever since.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

Both skeptics and proponents tend to have very entrenched positions on the cause of formation of the shroud image, (at times pitting science versus divine formation) which has made dialogue very difficult. This may prevent the issue from being fully settled to the satisfaction of all sides in the near future.[13][14]

Sudarium of Oviedo

The ark containing the Sudarium of Oviedo.

The Sudarium of Oviedo is a bloodstained cloth, measuring c. 84 x 53 cm, kept in the Cámara Santa of the Cathedral of San Salvador, Oviedo, Spain.[15] The Sudarium (Latin for sweat cloth) is claimed to be the cloth wrapped around the head of Jesus Christ after he died, as mentioned in the Gospel of John (20:6-7).[16] The Sudarium is displayed to the public three times a year: Good Friday, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross on 14 September, and its octave on 21 September.

The Sudarium is severely soiled and crumpled, with dark flecks that are symmetrically arranged but form no image, unlike the markings on the Shroud of Turin. However, many of the stains on the Sudarium match those on the head portion of the Shroud. Believers (such as Vatican archivist Msgr Giulio Ricci who studied them in 1995)[17] contend that both cloths covered the same man. Skeptics contend that the match with the Shroud is based on a polarized image overlay technique, which may be subjective and unreliable.

In 1998, blood tests done on both the Sudarium and the Shroud confirmed that the blood stains on both cloths were of the same type:[18] AB, a common blood type among Middle Eastern people but fairly rare among medieval Europeans. The most important physical evidence of a connection between the two relics is that the material of the cloth is identical, although there are differences in the manner of weaving.

Pollen residues on both the Shroud of Turin and the Sudarium provide strong evidence that both were at one point in the Palestine area.[19]

Image of Edessa

The Holy Face of Genoa.

The Image of Edessa, also known as the Mandylion, was allegedly sent by Jesus himself to King Abgar V of Edessa to cure him of leprosy, with a letter declining an invitation to visit the king. The story of this image is the product of centuries of development during which the image was lost and reappeared several times.

Today two images claim to be the Mandylion: one is the Holy Face of Genoa at the Church of St Bartholomew of The Armenians in Genoa; the other is the Holy Face of San Silvestro, kept in the Church of San Silvestro in Capite in Rome up to 1870, and now in the Matilda Chapel of the Vatican Palace.[20] The theory that the object venerated as the Mandylion from the sixth to the thirteenth centuries was in fact the Shroud of Turin[21] has been the subject of debate, but is now mostly rejected as a hypothesis.

Crown of Thorns

The relics of the Passion presented at Notre-Dame de Paris include a piece of the Cross, which had been kept in Rome and delivered by Saint Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine, a nail of the Passion and the Holy Crown of Thorns.

Of these relics, the Crown of Thorns is without a doubt the most precious and the most revered. Despite numerous studies and historical and scientific research efforts, its authenticity cannot be certified. It has been the object of more than sixteen centuries of fervent Christian prayer.

Saint John tells that, in the night between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Roman soldiers mocked Christ and his Sovereignty by placing a thorny crown on his head (John 19:12).

The crown housed in the Paris cathedral is a circle of canes bundled together and held by gold threads. The thorns were attached to this braided circle, which measures 21 centimetres in diameter. The thorns were divided up over the centuries by the Byzantine emperors and the Kings of France. There are seventy, all of the same type, which have been confirmed as the original thorns.

The accounts of 4th century pilgrims to Jerusalem allude to the Crown of Thorns and the instruments of the Passion of Christ. In 409, Saint Paulinus of Nola mentions is as being one of the relics kept in the basilica on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. In 570, Anthony the Martyr found it exhibited for veneration in the Basilica of Zion. Around 575, Cassiodorus, in his Exposition on the 75th Psalm, exclaimed, Jerusalem has the Column, here, there is the Crown of Thorns! In 870, once again in Jerusalem, Bernard the Monk noted it as well.

Between the 7th and the 10th centuries, the relics were moved progressively to the Byzantine emperors’ chapel in Constantinople, mainly to keep them safe from pillaging, like that suffered by the Holy Sepulchre during the Persian invasions. In 1238, Byzantium was governed by Latin Emperor Baldwin of Constantinople. As he was in great financial difficulty, he decided to pawn the relics in a Venetian bank to get credit.

Saint Louis, the king of France, took over and paid back the Venetians. On 10 August 1239, the king, followed by a brilliant procession, welcomed twenty-nine relics in Villeneuve-l’Archevêque. On 19 August 1239, the procession arrived in Paris; the king took off his royal garments. Wearing only a simple tunic and with bare feet, assisted by his brother, took the Crown of Thorns to Notre-Dame de Paris before placing the relics in the palace chapel. He built a reliquary worthy of housing these relics, Sainte Chapelle.

During the French revolution, the relics were stored in the National Library. After the Concordat in 1801, they were given back to the archbishop of Paris who placed them in the Cathedral treasury on 10 August 1806. They are still housed there today.

Since then, these relics have been conserved by the canons of the Metropolitan Basilica Chapter, who are in charge of venerations, and guarded by the Knights of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem.

Napoleon I and Napoleon III each offered reliquaries for the crown of thorns. They are on display at Notre-Dame Cathederal during scheduled religious ceremonies.[22]

Veil of Veronica

The Veil of Veronica, which according to legend was used to wipe the sweat from Jesus' brow as he carried the cross is also said to bear the likeness of the Face of Christ. Today, several images claim to be the Veil of Veronica.

There is an image kept in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome which purports to be the same Veronica as was revered in the Middle Ages. Very few inspections are recorded in modern times and there are no detailed photographs. The most detailed recorded inspection of the 20th century occurred in 1907 when Jesuit art historian Joseph Wilpert was allowed to remove two plates of glass to inspect the image.

The Hofburg Palace in Vienna has a copy of the Veronica, identified by the signature of the secretary of Pope Paul V, during whose reign a series of six meticulous copies of the veil were made in 1617.[23]

The image at the Monastery of the Holy Face in Alicante, Spain was acquired by Pope Nicholas V from relatives of the Byzantine Emperor in 1453 and was given by a Vatican cardinal to a Spanish priest who took it to Alicante, in southern Spain in 1489.

The Jaén Cathedral in Spain has a copy of the Veronica which probably dates from the fourteenth century and originates in Siena. It is known as the Santo Rostro and was acquired by Bishop Nicholas de Biedma in the 14th Century.[24]

Holy Chalice

The Holy Chalice is the chalice or vessel which Jesus used at the Last Supper to serve the wine, as in the Gospel of Matthew (26:27-28) which states: "Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."[25]

A number of Holy Chalices have been reported and also given rise to the legend of Holy Grail, which is not part of Catholic tradition, but of mythology.[26] Of the existing chalices, only the Santo Càliz de Valencia (English: Holy Chalice of the Cathedral of Valencia) is recognized as a "historical relic" by the Vatican,[27] although not as the actual chalice used at the Last Supper.[28] Although both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have venerated this chalice at the Cathedral of Valencia, neither has formally pronounced it as authentic.[29]

The True Cross

In the Christian tradition, the True Cross refers to the actual cross used in the Crucifixion of Jesus. Today, many fragments of wood are claimed as True Cross relics, but in most cases it is hard to establish their authenticity. The spread of the story of the fourth century discovery of the True Cross was partly due to its inclusion in 1260 in Jacopo de Voragine's very popular book The Golden Legend, which also included other tales such as Saint George and the Dragon.

Discovery of the True Cross, by Tiepolo, 1745.

Tradition and legend attribute the discovery of the True Cross to Saint Helena, mother of Constantine the Great who went to Palestine during the fourth century in search of relics. Eusebius of Caesarea was the only contemporary author to write about Helena's journey in his Life of Constantine. But Eusebius did not mention the finding of the True Cross, although he dwelt heavily on the piety of Helena and the finding of the site of the Holy Sepulchre.[30] Texts that tell (and gradually elaborate) the story of the finding of the True Cross and its identification through a miracle date to the fifth century, and include writings by Socrates Scholasticus, Sozomen and Saint Theodoret.[31]

Pieces of the purported True Cross, including the half of the INRI inscription tablet, are preserved at the ancient basilica Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome. Very small pieces or particles of the True Cross are reportedly preserved in hundreds of other churches in Europe and inside crucifixes. Their authenticity is not accepted universally by those of the Christian faith and the accuracy of the reports surrounding the discovery of the True Cross is questioned by many Christians. The acceptance and belief of that part of the tradition that pertains to the Early Christian Church is generally restricted to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. The Medieval legends of its provenance differ between Catholic and Orthodox tradition. These churches honour Helena as a saint, as does also the Anglican Communion.

Other relics


A series of articles on
This box: view · talk · edit

A large number of other claimed relics of Jesus continue to be displayed throughout the world. A good number of these relics involve the journey of Saint Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Constantine the Great to Palestine in the fourth century to gather relics.

The authenticity of many of these relics is in question. For instance, regarding the Holy Nails brought back by Saint Helena, the Catholic Encyclopedia states that given that the question has long been debated whether Christ was crucified with three or with four nails:[2]

Very little reliance can be placed upon the authenticity of the thirty or more holy nails which are still venerated, or which have been venerated until recent times, in such treasuries as that of Santa Croce in Rome, or those of Venice, Aachen, Escurial, Nuremberg, Prague, etc. Probably the majority began by professing to be facsimiles which had touched or contained filings from some other nail whose claim was more ancient.

Similarly, a large number of churches claim to have relics of the Crown of Thorns which was placed upon the head of Jesus by the soldiers prior to his crucifixion .

The Scala Sancta, the stairs from Pontius Pilate's praetorium, ascended by Jesus during his trial were also reportedly brought to Rome by Saint Helena of Constantinople in the 4th Century.

The Basilica of the Holy Blood in Bruges, Belgium, claims a specimen of Christ's blood in a phial said to contain a cloth with blood of Jesus Christ, brought to the city by Thierry of Alsace after the 12th century.

Other claimed relics, based on the Crucifixion of Christ include:

  • The Holy Coat: The possession of the seamless garment of Christ (Latin: Latin tunica inconsultilis (John 19:23), for which the soldiers cast lots at the Crucifixion, is claimed by the cathedral of Trier, Germany, and by the parish church of Argenteuil, France. The Seamless robe of Jesus is kept at the cathedral of Trier. The Argenteuil tradition claims that the garment venerated in that city as the Holy Coat was brought there by Charlemagne.
  • The Calvary of crucifixion, a small rock called Golgotha, in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Inside the church is a pile of rock about 7 metres (23 ft) long by 3 metres (9.8 ft) wide by 4.8 metres (16 ft), believed to be what is now visible of Calvary.
  • The Iron Crown of Lombardy and Bridle of Constantine, said to be made from nails used during the crucifixion
  • The Holy Lance (or Spear of Destiny), the spear of Longinus used to pierce Jesus' side when he was on the cross, to ensure that he had died.
  • The Holy Sponge, in Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
  • The Column of the Flagellation, which Jesus was tied to during the Flagellation of Christ, kept in the Basilica of Saint Praxedes in Rome.


A number of miscellaneous relics are claimed, and in most cases there is no proof whatsoever that they are genuine. Indeed, given that several locations simultaneously claim to have the same unique relic, as is the case with the Holy Nails above, indicates that some of them are clear hoaxes.

St. Paul's Monastery on Mount Athos claims to have relics of Gifts of the Magi, while Dubrovnik's Cathedral, Croatia, lays claim to the swaddling clothes the baby Jesus wore during the presentation at the Temple.[32] At various points in history, a number of churches in Europe have claimed to possess the Holy Prepuce, Jesus' foreskin from the Circumcision, sometimes at the same time. The knife that was claimed to have been used by Jesus during the Last Supper was also a matter of veneration in the Middle Ages, according to the 12th century Guide for Pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela.[33] According to French traveler Jules-Léonard Belin the knife used by Jesus to slice bread was permanently exhibited in the Logetta (decorated entrance hall) of St Mark's Campanile in Venice.[34] The old belltower and its Logietta collapsed in 1902. No proof has been offered that these items are genuine.

See also


  1. ^ Dillenberger 1999, p. 5
  2. ^ a b  Thurston, Herbert (1913). "Holy Nails". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  3. ^ Pope John Paul II (1998-05-24), Pope John Paul II's address in Turin Cathedral, Holy See, 
  4. ^ Cruz 2003, p. 200
  5. ^ « The Shroud of Turin is the single, most studied artifact in human history » statement considered as « widely accepted » in Lloyd A Currie, « The Remarkable Metrological History of Radiocarbon Dating [II] », J. Res. Natl. Inst. Stand. Technol. 109, 2004, p. 200 Article.
  6. ^ Damon, P. E.; D. J. Donahue, B. H. Gore, A. L. Hatheway, A. J. T. Jull, T. W. Linick, P. J. Sercel, L. J. Toolin, C. R. Bronk, E. T. Hall, R. E. M. Hedges, R. Housley, I. A. Law, C. Perry, G. Bonani, S. Trumbore, W. Woelfli, J. C. Ambers, S. G. E. Bowman, M. N. Leese, M. S. Tite (1989-02), "Radiocarbon dating of the Shroud of Turin", Nature 337 (6208): 611–615, doi:10.1038/337611a0,, retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  7. ^ Brendan Whiting, 2006, The Shroud Story, Harbour Publishing, ISBN 064645725X
  8. ^ Gove, H E (1990), "Dating the Turin Shroud-An Assessment" (PDF), Radiocarbon (32:1, 87-92),, retrieved 2009-06-27. 
  9. ^ Joe Nickell. "Claims of Invalid "Shroud" Radiocarbon Date Cut from Whole Cloth". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  10. ^ Daily Telegraph article on Carbon dating
  11. ^ Lorenzi, Rossella. "Shroud of Turin's Authenticity Probed Anew". Discovery Channel. Discovery Communications. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  12. ^ Shroud mystery refuses to go away: BBC News 2008
  13. ^ Colin Evans, 2002 A question of evidence ISBN 0471440140 page 10
  14. ^ Paul Vignon, 2002 The Shroud of Christ ISBN 1885395965 page 3
  15. ^ Michael McDonnell, 2007 Lost Treasures of the Bible ISBN 1847533167 page 31
  16. ^ John 20:6
  17. ^ Ruffin 1999, p. 47
  18. ^ Tanner, Dallas (30 December 2008), The Shroud, Dallas Tanner, p. 89, ISBN 9781441429216,, retrieved 21 October 2010 
  19. ^ Dees 2008, p. 46
  20. ^ Houlden 2003, vol. 2, p. 66
  21. ^ Wilson 1991
  22. ^ Notre Dame de Paris - Veneration of the Crown
  23. ^ Wilson 1991, p. 157
  24. ^ Wilson 1991, p. 94
  25. ^ Matthew 26:27-28
  26. ^  Thurston, Herbert (1913). "Chalice". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 
  27. ^ "The History of the Holy Chalice", Official website of the Valencia cathedral - The Holy Chalice of the Lord Supper, 
  28. ^ Griffin 2001, p. 103
  29. ^ Pope to Venerate Holy Grail, Zenit News, 2006-07-07, 
  30. ^ Life of Constantine book 3, chapter 25 - 41
  31. ^ Julian 2006, p. 72
  32. ^ Janekovic-Romer, Zdenka (1996) (in Croatian), Javni rituali u politickom diskursu humanistickog Dubrovnika, Zavod za hrvatsku povijest Filozofskog fakulteta Zagreb - Institute of Croatian history, Faculty of Philosophy Zagreb, p. 78, 
  33. ^ Snoek, Godefridus (1995), Medieval Piety from Relics to the Eucharist, Leiden: E.J. Brill, p. 248, ISBN 9004102639, 
  34. ^ Belin, Julien-Léonard (1843) (in French), Le Simplon et l'Italie septentrionale: promenades et pèlerinages, Belin-Leprieur, p. 218, 


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Поможем сделать НИР

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Jesus myth theory — The Resurrection of Christ by Noel Coypel (1700). Jesus myth theorists see this as one of a number of stories about dying and rising gods. Description The …   Wikipedia

  • Jesus — This article is about Jesus of Nazareth. For other uses, see Jesus (disambiguation). Jesus …   Wikipedia

  • Relics — • An object, notably part of the body or clothes, remaining as a memorial of a departed saint Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Relics     Relics      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Historicity of Jesus — This article is about the basis for holding the view that Jesus existed as portrayed in the Bible. For the view that Jesus may be a fictitious figure, see Jesus myth theory. For critical reconstructions of Jesus, see Historical Jesus. For the… …   Wikipedia

  • Jesus Christ in comparative mythology — A series of articles on Jesus Christ and Christianity Gospel harmony  …   Wikipedia

  • Jesus in Islam — Isa redirects here. For other uses, see Isa (disambiguation). This article is part of th …   Wikipedia

  • Relics of Muhammad — rather than Muhammad himself.The 17th century French explorer Jean Baptiste Tavernier wrote about his discussions with two treasurers of Constantinople, who described the standard, mantle and the seal.Tavernier, Jean Baptiste. Nouvelle Relation… …   Wikipedia

  • Depiction of Jesus — The oldest surviving panel icon of Christ Pantocrator, encaustic on panel, c. 6th century. The depiction of Jesus in art took several centuries to reach a conventional standardized form for his physical appearance, which has subsequently remained …   Wikipedia

  • Names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament — Cartel at the Church of the Gesù, Rome with the Latin inscription from Philippians 2:10: at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . Two names and a variety of titles are used to refer to Jesus in the New Testa …   Wikipedia

  • Resurrection of Jesus — Resurrection of Christ by Noel Coypel, 1700, using a hovering depiction of Jesus. Part of a series on the Death and resurrection of Jesus …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”