Friday, June 18, 2021

Interesting Religious Relics of Europe

I stumbled upon a lot of relics from Jesus that you can visit, many in Rome. Rome's churches are filled with countless religious relics. Relics can include anything from the body parts of a saint to shards of the True Cross, to pieces of cloth that have rubbed against a saint's tomb. Rome has some of the most important and unusual relics.

Basilica Santa Prassede houses a segment of the pillar or column upon which Jesus was flogged and tortured before his crucifixion in Jerusalem. The relic was discovered in the early 4th century by Saint Helena (mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine I) who at the age of eighty undertook a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where she founded churches for Christian worship and rescued relics associated with the crucifixion of Jesus on Calvary. In 1223, Cardinal Giovanni Colonna, an emissary to the Holy Land in 1223 was said to have obtained this artifact and brought it to Rome. Among these legendary relics retrieved by Helena, which included pieces of the True Cross.

The Scala Sancta
The Scala Sancta (Holy Stairs) is a set of 28 white marble steps that are Roman Catholic relics located in an edifice on the extraterritorial property of the Holy See in Rome, Italy proximate to the Archbasilica of Saint John in Laterano. Officially, the edifice is titled the Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs (Pontificio Santuario della Scala Santa) and incorporates part of the old Papal Lateran Palace. Replica stairs flank the original staircase, which may only be climbed on one's knees. The Holy Stairs lead to the Church of Saint Lawrence in Palatio ad Sancta Sanctorum.

According to Roman Catholic tradition, the Holy Stairs are the steps leading up to the praetorium of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on which Jesus Christ stepped on his way to trial during his Passion. The Stairs reputedly were brought to Rome by Saint Helena in the fourth century. For centuries, the Scala Sancta has attracted Christian pilgrims who wish to honor the Passion of Jesus Christ.
The Scala Sancta may only be ascended on the knees. 

Santa Croce in Gerusalemme:
Houses part of the Elogium or Titulus Crucis (the inscribed tablet that hung over Jesus during his crucifixion,) two thorns of the Crown of Thorns, part of a nail, and three small wooden pieces of the True Cross. A much larger piece of the True Cross was taken from the Basilica on the instructions of Pope Urban VIII in 1629 to St. Peter's Basilica, where it is kept near the colossal statue of St. Empress Helena. The Holy Sponge is also here. ‘The Doubting Finger of St Thomas’ is here inside a glass case. In the Bible, ‘Doubting’ Thomas was unable to accept the resurrection of Christ, even though he stood there before him. So Christ allowed Thomas the Apostle to put his finger inside the wound made in his side by a Roman soldier’s lance.

Saint Peter’s Basilica:
The Veil of Veronica used to wipe the sweat from Jesus' brow as he carried the cross, is claimed to bear the likeness of the face of Christ.
The Image of Edessa is also known as the Mandylion is in the Matilda Chapel of the Vatican Palace.

Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore:
Wooden pieces claimed to be remnants of the manger of baby Jesus, reside in the Holy Crib reliquary at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. It is kept inside a crystal reliquary below the high altar. In 2019 a fragment of the crib was removed from the Holy Crib reliquary and placed on permanent display at the Church of Saint Catherine in Bethlehem. Here is also another piece of the True Cross. There are also the tombs of St. Matthew, St. Jerome and Pope Pius V. 

San Giovanni in Laterano: 
Here you can see pieces of the cedar table that are said to be used by Christ at the Last Supper,
the Altar of the Holy Sacrament, the heads of both St. Peter and Paul, as well as the ‘Holy Umbilical Cord.’
On the other side of the road from Basilica di San Giovanni is an experience you will be sure to remember from your visit to Rome. The Scala Santa church by Rome standards is a rather small obscure church from outside.

The Mouth of Truth
San Paolo Fuori le Mura contains the tomb of St. Paul and a set of chains believed to be the prison chains of St. Paul.

San Pietro in Vincoli: This church houses the prison chains of the church’s first pope, St. Peter.

Santa Maria in Cosmedin houses the Bocca della Verita (The Mouth of Truth) and casket of St. Valentine including the saint’s skull.

Saint Peter's Basilica:
The entrance to Saint Peter's Basilica has spiritual significance as it is written: “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me, will be safe. He will go in and out, and find pasture.”(John 10:9)

St. Peter's is a church built in the Renaissance style located in Vatican City. Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter's is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world. It is in the sovereign jurisdiction of the Vatican City State, and not that of Italy.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, it is recorded in the Biblical book of the Acts of the Apostles that one of his twelve disciples, Simon known as Saint Peter, a fisherman from Galilee, took a leadership position among Jesus' followers and was of great importance in the founding of the Christian Church.

The entire church is here because St Peter's tomb is below. The shrine can be viewed on three levels; the basilica floor, the grottoes below, and the ancient Necropolis on the lowest level. 

The only way to visit the Necropolis is if you're fortunate enough to book a Scavi tour,  where you get to see a piece of his ancient tomb memorial.  The end of the tour provides a time for prayer while you view the bones found there.

The Grottoes offer the most direct view of the tomb area.  Here you can look directly into the Confessio area at the Niche of the Pallium (the wall in front of the tomb). 
Vatican Grottoes are free and easy to miss!
The Vatican Grottoes is a vast underground graveyard or crypt and can be found just below the Renaissance basilica and above Constantine’s 4th-century basilica. The narrow entrance stairway down from within the basilica is not the most obvious so if this is important to you ask for guidance at the information desk. It houses the tombs of scores of popes as well as kings and queens from the 10th century, over 100 tombs are here! The monuments to Paul VI (1978) and Pope John Paul II (2005) are also in the grottoes.
The Vatican Grottoes are free to enter and are open every day from 7am-6pm, April-September and 7am-5pm, October-March.
No photography allowed. You have to be silent in the Grottoes.
Make this your last call after your tour of the basilica, because once you exit the Grottoes you will be outside of the Basilica.

To pay a little visit to St Peter from the basilica floor, stand before the Papal Altar and look into the Confessio below. The great cupola above and the baldachino around the altar, are there to remind you that "Peter is here".

If you don't mind looking a bit touristy, get in line to place your hand on the right foot of the St Peter statue, not far from the Papal Altar, beside the St Longinus pier. This isn't just a popular photo op, but an ancient devotion confirmed by the worn-away toes on St Peter's foot.

St Peter’s Square:
At the center of the square is an ancient Egyptian obelisk made of red granite, 84 ft tall, supported on bronze lions and surmounted by the Chigi arms in bronze, in all 135 ft to the cross on its top. The obelisk was originally erected at Heliopolis, Egypt, by an unknown pharaoh. During the Middle Ages, the gilt ball on top of the obelisk was believed to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar.
On Sundays at noon, the Pope usually delivers a blessing from his window for people gathered in St. Peter's Square.

And some that can be found outside of Rome:

The Shroud of Turin is the best-known and intensively studied relic of Jesus.  You can find it in Turin, Italy in the Chapel of the Holy Shroud. It is the burial cloth of Christ. When photographed in 1979 the negative revealed a more detailed image imprint of a body, which some see as beyond the capacities of medieval forgers.

St Mark's Campanile in Venice:
The Last Supper
The knife 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. According to French traveler Jules-Léonard Belin, the knife used by Jesus to slice bread was permanently exhibited in the Logetta of St Mark's Campanile in Venice.

St. Paul's Monastery on Mount Athos claims to have relics of Gifts of the Magi, while Dubrovnik's Cathedral, Croatia, claims to have the swaddling clothes the baby Jesus wore during the presentation at the Temple.

Cathedral of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
Santo Cáliz de Valenciam; The Holy Chalice is the container Jesus used at the Last Supper to serve wine

Crown of Thorns: Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris
a piece of the True Cross from Rome as delivered by Saint Helena, along with a Holy Nail and the Crown of Thorns. Saint John tells that, in the night between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, Roman soldiers mocked Jesus by placing a thorny crown on his head (John 19:12). The crown is a circle of cane bundled together and held by gold threads. The thorns were attached to this braided circle, which measures 21 centimeters in diameter. The seventy thorns were reportedly divided up between the Byzantine emperors and the Kings of France.

The accounts of pilgrims to Jerusalem report the Crown of Thorns. In 409, Saint Paulinus of Nola states the Crown was kept in the basilica on Mount Zion in Jerusalem. In 570, Anthony the Martyr reports the Crown of Thorns in the Basilica of Zion. Around 575, Cassiodorus wrote, "Jerusalem has the Column, here, there is the Crown of Thorns!" Between the 7th and the 10th centuries, the Crown of Thorns was moved to the Byzantine emperors' chapel in Constantinople for safekeeping. In 1238, the Latin Emperor Baldwin II of Constantinople pawned the relics for credit to a Venetian bank.

Saint Louis, the king of France redeemed the Crown from the Venetian Bank. On 10 August 1239, the king deposited 29 relics in Villeneuve-l'Archevêque. On 19 August 1239, the relics arrived in Paris. Wearing a simple tunic and with bare feet, the King placed the Crown of Thorns and other relics in the palace chapel in a structure he commissioned. During the French revolution, the relics were stored in the National Library. After the Concordat in 1801, the relics were given to the archbishop of Paris who placed them in the Cathedral treasury on 10 August 1806. 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 were on display at Notre-Dame Cathedral during scheduled religious ceremonies, until a serious fire struck the cathedral on 15 April 2019.

Other claimed relics, based on the Crucifixion of Christ include:
The parish church of Argenteuil, France:
The Holy Coat: The possession of the seamless garment of Christ (John 19:23), for which the soldiers cast lots at the Crucifixion. The Argenteuil church claims that their Holy Coat was brought by Charlemagne.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem
Golgotha,  the crucifixion site inside the church the crucifixion site consists of a pile of rock about 23 ft long by 9.8 ft wide by 16 ft.

Nails venerated as those of Christ's crucifixion:
In the Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome.
In the Holy Lance of the German imperial regalia in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.
In the Iron Crown of Lombardy in the Cathedral of Monza.
In the treasury of Trier Cathedral.
In Bamberg Cathedral.
In the form of a bridle, in the apse of the Cathedral of Milan (see Rito della Nivola)
In the form of a bridle, in the cathedral treasury of Carpentras.
In the monastery of San Nicolò l'Arena in Catania
In the cathedral of Colle di Val d'Elsa, near Siena

The Archbasilica of St. John Lateran:
A section of the Holy Umbilical Cord believed to remain from the birth of Christ.

The Holy Prepuce, or the Holy Foreskin is one of several relics attributed to Jesus, a product of the circumcision of Jesus. At various points in history, a number of churches in Europe have claimed to possess Jesus's foreskin, sometimes at the same time. Various miraculous powers have been ascribed to it. The foreskin was looted during the Sack of Rome in 1527. The German soldier who stole it was captured in the village of Calcata, north of Rome, later the same year. The foreskin housed in Calcata became a must-see destination on the pilgrimage map. The Holy Foreskin was paraded through the streets as recently as 1983 on the Feast of the Circumcision, which was formerly marked by the Roman Catholic Church around the world on January 1 each year. The practice ended, however, when thieves stole the jewel-encrusted case, contents and all. Following this theft, it is unclear whether any of the purported Holy Prepuces still exist. In a 1997 television documentary for Channel 4, British journalist Miles Kington traveled to Italy in search of the Holy Foreskin, but was unable to find any remaining example. On December 22, 2013, National Geographic Channel broadcast a documentary starring Farley called "The Quest for the Holy Foreskin." In 1983, however, parish priest Dario Magnoni announced, "This year, the holy relic will not be exposed to the devotion of the faithful. It has vanished. Sacrilegious thieves have taken it from my home." He had reportedly kept it in a shoebox in the back of a wardrobe. Citing the Vatican's decree of ex-communication if anyone spoke of the Holy Foreskin, Magnoni refuses to further discuss the event, as does the Vatican. As a result, villagers' theories of the crime vary from theft for lucrative resale to an effort by the Vatican to quietly put an end to the practice it had attempted to end by ex-communication years ago. Some residents speculate that Magnoni may have been the culprit. Innnterestingggg. I found a pretty interesting book that I enjoyed reading way too much, on the subject of The Holy Foreskin. I highly recommend you add it to your book club list! It is: An Irreverent Curiosity: In Search of the Church's Strangest Relic in Italy's Oddest Town 

Holy Blood relic in Santa Maria della ScalaSiena

Relics of Jesus's Blood around the world:
Santa Maria della Scala, Siena, Italy 
Basilica of the Holy Blood, Bruges, Belgium
Weingarten Abbey, Germany
Abbey of the Holy Trinity, Fécamp, France
St. James's Church, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
Basilica di Sant'Andrea di Mantova, Mantua, Italy
The Sudarium of Oviedo
The Relic of the Holy Blood, Westminster, England

Cappella del Sacro Cingolo in Prato Cathedral in Prato, Italy, Santa Maria della Scala in Siena, Italy, and Malankara Church in India all claim to have part of the Virgin Mary's girdle!

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