Holy Relics
The Graham Phillips Website
Usually, holy relics were the earthly remains of saints: their bones or, in some cases, a mummified appendage. Relics were believed to hold divine power. They could heal sickness, protect against evil, and secure spiritual well-being. In the Middle Ages, between the tenth and fourteenth centuries, relics were priceless and highly sought throughout Christian Europe, and their acquisition became an international obsession. Throughout Europe, relics were displayed in public shrines to be visited by thousands of pilgrims in the hope that they might be helped, cured, or enlightened by their close proximity to the remains. Pilgrims were prepared to pay to view or touch the relics, and vast wealth was donated to the monasteries, abbeys, and cathedrals that contained the bones of the most famous saints. Often a religious center would grow rich and powerful solely from the proceeds of its relics.
Above: A glass flask in the church of St. Maria in Amaseno, Italy, said to contain the blood of the third-century Christian martyr Saint Lorenzo.
Left: The Holy Shroud from TurinItaly.  It is a centuries-old linen cloth said to bear the image of the crucified Christ.
Relics did not only include bodily remains: the most prestigious relics were artifacts thought to have been associated with the Bible. Items associated with Jesus—for instance, splinters from the cross and the famous Turin Shroud in which Christ’s crucified body was said to have been wrapped—attracted vast numbers of pilgrims. Equally prized were Old Testament relics, such as a ring said to have belonged to Solomon that was housed at Lucca Cathedral in Italy, and a gem claimed to have come from the hilt of King David’s sword that was kept in Valencia Cathedral in Spain. Of all the Biblical relics, the Holy Grail was the most famous and sought after as it was thought to have contained Jesus’ holy, redeeming blood.