Looking back at S2-S5 parallels, we noticed that relics were mentioned by QSA when she was explaining what MA was, in S5 we saw the vampires venerating the blood of Lilith, a relic, having its own reliquary and sanctum at TA’s Headquarters. We even wrote about it when we first saw the vial. So what is a relic?
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a touchable or tangible memorial. Relics are an important aspect of some forms of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Shamanism, and many other religions. The word relic comes from the Latin reliquiae, meaning “remains” or “something left behind” (the same root as relinquish). A reliquary is a shrine that houses one or more religious relics. It is a part of an even more ancient concept of the veneration of the dead/ancestors worship.
In ancient Greece, a city or sanctuary might claim to possess, without necessarily displaying, the remains of a venerated hero as a part of hero cult. Other venerable objects associated with the hero were more likely to be on display in sanctuaries, such as spears, shields, or other weaponry; chariots, ships or figureheads; furniture such as chairs or tripods; and clothing. In contrast to the relics of Christian saints, the bones were not regarded as holding a particular power derived from the hero, with some exceptions. The bones or ashes of Aesculapius at Epidaurus, and of Perdiccas I at Macedon, were treated with the deepest veneration. As with the relics of Theseus, the bones are sometimes described in literary sources as gigantic, an indication of the hero’s “larger than life” status.
One of the earliest sources that purports to show the efficacy of relics is found in 2 Kings 13:20–21:
20 Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet. (NIV)
These verses are cited to claim that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling also affects the physical body, that God can do miracles through the bodies of His servants, or both. With regard to relics that are objects, an often cited passage is Acts 19:11–12, which says that Paul’s handkerchiefs were imbued by God with healing power. Christian worship by 6c. had developed a clear hierarchy of intercession, which regulated the access of believers to the divine. This hierarchy constituted the Trinity at its pinnacle (with Christ as its most accessible member because of his human experience), followed by the Virgin, referred to as the ‘God-bearer’ or Theotokos in Greek writing, the saints, and finally, the believer. Many tales of miracles and other marvels were attributed to relics beginning in the early centuries of the church; many of these became especially popular during the Middle Ages. These tales are collected in books of hagiography such as the Golden Legend or the works of Caesar of Heisterbach. These miracle tales made relics much sought after during the Middle Ages. By the late Middle Ages the collecting of, and dealing in, relics had reached enormous proportions, and had spread from the church to royalty, and then to the nobility and merchant classes. In the absence of real ways of assessing authenticity, relic-collectors became prey to the unscrupulous, and some extremely high prices were paid.
In his introduction to Gregory of Tours, Ernest Brehaut analysed the Romano-Christian concepts that gave relics such a powerful draw. He distinguished Gregory’s constant usage of sanctus and virtus, the first with its familiar meaning of “sacred” or “holy”, and the second
"… the mystic potency emanating from the person or thing that is sacred. Virtus..describes the uncanny, mysterious power emanating from the supernatural and affecting the natural. The manifestation of this power may be thought of as a contact between the natural and the supernatural in which the former, being an inferior reality, of course yielded. These points of contact and yielding are the miracles we continually hear of. The quality of sacredness and the mystic potency belong to spirits, in varying degrees to the faithful, and to inanimate objects. They are possessed by spirits, acquired by the faithful, and transmitted to objects."
Opposed to this holy “virtue” was also a “false” mystic potency that emanated from inhabiting daemons who were conceived of as alien and hostile. Truly holy virtus would defeat it, but it could affect natural phenomena and effect its own kinds of miracles, deceitful and malignant ones. This “virtue” Gregory of Tours and other Christian writers associated with the devil, demons, soothsayers, magicians, pagans and pagan gods, and heretics. False virtus inhabited images of the pagan gods, represented today by sculpture preserved by archaeology and in museums. The zeal to destroy the false virtus embodied by these works of art accounts for some of the rage with which mobs of Christians toppled sculptures, and smashed classical reliefs (particularly the faces), as evidenced by the damage to many works of art on display in museums.
The veneration of relics continues to be of importance in the Eastern Orthodox Church. As a natural outgrowth of the concept in Orthodox theology of theosis, the physical bodies of the saints are considered to be transformed by divine grace.
In the Roman Catholic church, relics are classified and the sale of relics is strictly forbidden by the Church. There are also many relics attributed to Jesus, perhaps most famously the Shroud of Turin, said to be the burial shroud of Jesus Christ. Pieces of the True Cross were one of the most highly sought after such relics and so were the Blood of Christ. Relics of the Blood around the world includes:
- Basilica of the Holy Blood, Bruges, Belgium
- Weingarten Abbey, Germany
- Abbey of the Holy Trinity, Fécamp, France
- St. Jakob Church, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany
- Basilica di Sant’Andrea di Mantova, Mantua, Italy
- The Sudarium of Oviedo
- A chapel at Heiligenblut, Austria
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