The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

One of the more controversial aspects of many religions is a history of preserving "relics," or pieces taken from the bodies of saints. Here are some of the most unusual examples of these macabre objects of veneration.

The hand of a 16th century Jesuit missionary, St. Francis Xavier (Il Gesu, Rome)

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

His right hand was cut off the mummified corpse located in Old Goa, India in 1614 and kept in Rome.

Shortly after the first exhibition of the corpse, a Portugese woman bit off one of the Saint's big toes. The toe is now in a silver reliquary in another cathedral in Goa. One of St. Francis Xavier's (diamond-encrusted) fingernails is on display in a nearby village and his left hand is in Japan.

(via Iconic Photos, The Southern Cross and Romana Klee)

The Shroud of Turin with a mysterious image – the burial cloth of Jesus Christ? (Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist, Turin, Italy)

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

The first photograph of the face, by Secondo Pia, 1898

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

(Photo by Musée de l'Elysée and World Imaging)

The heart of Saint Camillus de Lellis, founder of the Order Of Camilians in the late 16th century

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

(via Catholic Voice Media)

Reliquary of the Foot of St. Blaise, the bishop of Sebastea in the early 4th century

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

(via Cultural Heritage Fund)

The Blood of San Gennaro, Bishop of Naples around 300 A.D., now the patron saint of the city (kept in Naples Cathedral, in the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, Naples, Italy)

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

The blood miraculously re-liquifies three times a year. If this doesn't happen, bad things come: including the bombing during WWII, an earthquake, and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

(via brendo's blog and Italian/American Digital Project)

The head of St. John Chrysostom, the Archbishop of Constantinople in the late 4th and early 5th century

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

(via Canons Regular of Saint John Cantius)

The Holy Right, the mummified right fist of the first King of Hungary between 1000 and 1038 (in the Basilica of King Saint Stephen in Budapest)

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

(via huns2huns and Magyar Kurír)

The Sacred Relic of the tooth of Buddha (Kandy, Sri Lanka)

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

After Buddha died in 543 BC and cremated, his left canine tooth was retrieved.

(via Daladamaligawa and Sri Lanka Study Tour)

Footprint and a parts of Prophet Mohammed's beard in Turkey

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

(via Bilkent University)

The tissue of the 16th century Italian priest Philip Neri, "The Apostle of Rome" surrounding his expanding heart (Santa Maria in Vallicella or Chiesa Nuova Church, Rome)

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

(via Transalpine Redemptorists)

The Blessed Tongue and jaw of St. Anthony of Padua

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

32 years after his death in 1263 a basilica had been built to his relics in Padua. When the crypt was opened, they found only dust and bones. And an intact tongue.

(via Communio and the Basilica of St. Anthony)

Bonus: The Holy Foreskin (or Holy Prepuce), a product of the circumcision of Jesus

The Bizarrely Beautiful World of Relics in Religious History

In the Middle Ages some churches have claimed that they have Jesus' foreskin, sometimes at the same time. Most of them were lost or destroyed during the Reformation and the French Revolution. The best known example, The Holy Prepuce of Calcata has been stolen in 1983.

(Painting by Friedrich Herlin, detail from Twelve Apostles Altar, 1466)