As we worked through the restoration of the church archives in Abruzzo, we were made aware of the reliquary and theca that were also housed in the church archives and their need for restoration, new vessels, and inventory.  We currently handle the restoration of this project in several ways.  The most immediate for us was to work through the loose relics that were stored for decades (we believe before World War 2), and provide new reliquary and theca to house them.  The relics of St. Bernardino, St. Dolcisimo, St. Julio, St. Rinaldo were all placed in a reliquary in 2015 and displayed for the first time to the parishioners during all saints day.  In addition, the older reliquaries and theca have been examined, and the reliquaries with the most wear are starting a restoration process in 2016.  


Please support this project on our Make a Donation page.   There is still a lot to do and produce for these thecae and reliquary as in some cases, there are only fragments that remain but need to be salvaged.  

Photos by:  Matthew Larcinese, Abruzzo, Italy.

Photos by:  Matthew Larcinese, Abruzzo, Italy. 

Reliquaries 

Reliquaries are the containers that store and display relics. Since the relics themselves were considered "more valuable than
precious stones and more to be esteemed than gold," it was considered only appropriate that they be enshrined in vessels, or reliquaries,crafted of or covered by gold, silver, ivory, gems, and enamel. These precious objects constituted a major form of artistic production across Europe and Byzantium throughout the
Middle Ages. Medieval reliquaries frequently assume

the form of caskets (chasses), but complex containers in the form of parts of the body, usually mimicking the relics they enshrined are one of the most remarkable art forms created in the Middle Ages for the precious remains of saints. Reliquaries were often covered with narrative scenes from the life of saints, whose remains may have been contained within. Sometimes the decoration of chasses was not specific to any given saint or community but rather reflected common Christian themes, making them appropriate to the use of any community. Reliquaries were also fashioned into full-body statues, or more abbreviated, but still imposing, bust-length images of saints, often those with local reputations of great authority, including revered women saints. Set on an altar and carried in procession, their arrival sometimes heralded by the sounding of ivory horns, these highly decorated works of art made an indelible impression on the faithful. The distinction between the meaning of an image such as the famous Reliquary Statue of Sainte-Foy, still preserved at the monastery of Conques in France, and pagan idols was clearly articulated in an important chronicle written by Bernard of Angers in the eleventh century: "It is not an impure idol that receives the worship of an oracle or of sacrifice, it is a pious memorial, before which the faithful heart feels more easily and more strongly touched by solemnity, and implores more fervently the powerful intercession of the saint for its sins." By the end of the Middle Ages, image reliquaries, which traditionally were meant to suggest a saint's heavenly form and visage, came to mirror contemporary ideas of beauty. Meanwhile, the relics themselves, once hidden within the container, could be glimpsed through apertures or vials of rock crystal.  Reliquaries were sometimes created expressly for privileged individuals or purchased by them. The faithful of humble means might still acquire a souvenir badge at the shrines of saints that called to mind the precious works of art associated with them. Whether created for a church or for a private individual, medieval reliquaries have been subject to widespread destruction during times of religious and political strife. Those that survive bear precious witness to exceptional artistic creativity inspired by contemporary faith.

Photo by:  Matthew Larcinese, Rome, Italy. 

Second Class Relics are items used by the saint during life (or after death). Included would be articles of clothing, a book, a rosary or even a fragment of the saint's coffin. your paragraph here.

Latin Relic Descriptions
applicasse et Lanceae Domini cuspidi - touched to the Holy Spear
applicasse et Sudarri Veronicae - touched to the Veil of Veronica
applicasse et vivicae Crucise - Touched to the True Cross
arca mortuaria - mortuary box, container
arca sepulerali- coffin
Beatae Mariae Virginis, B.V.M. - Blessed Virgin Mary
breviario - breviary
coronse spinse D.N.J.C. - crown of thorns of Our Lord Jesus Christ
[cravio] corporis - body
de velo - from the veil
Domini Nostri Jesu Christi, D.N.J.C. - Our Lord Jesus Christ
ex domo - from the house
ex bacula - from the staff
ex bireto - from the biretta
ex calce sepulchri - from the cement of the tomb
ex capillis - from the hair
ex capsa - coffin, also see capsa funeralis
ex carne - from the flesh
ex cineribus - from the ashes. Same as ex exuviis
ex coronae spinae - from the crown of thorns
ex crinibus - from the hair
ex crucis - from the cross
ex cute - from the skin
ex exuviis - from the ashes or dust of the body remaining after decomposition.
ex Funi. Flag. - from the flagellation ropes.
ex Inncunabuli - from the swaddling clothes
ex indumentis - from the clothing. Sometimes refers to pieces of cloth that have touched a 1st or 2nd class relic.
ex lanceae - from the lance
ex ligneo pulvere, mixto pulveri corporis, quem residuum continebat prima capsa funeralis - from the remains of the wood, mixed with the dust of the body, the residue of which was contained in the first box, [or sarcophagus]
ex lignum crucis - from the wood of the cross
ex linteo attacto ossibus - from the cloth that touched the bones (third class relic)
ex loco Annunciationis Beatae Mariae Virginis - from the site of the annunication of the Blessed Virgin Mary
ex ossibus - from the bones
ex pallio - from the cloak
ex panno a stigmatibus cruentato - from the bandage that covered the stigmatic wound
ex pelle - from the skin
ex pluviali - from the cope [cloak wore for Benediction]
ex praecordis - from the stomach or intestines
ex praesepis - birthplace of D.N.J.C.
de pulvere corporis - from the dust of the body following decomposition
ex pulvinari lapideo - from the stone pillow
ex purpurae - from the purple robe
ex sanguine - from the blood
ex scal.Pilati - from Pilate's staircase
ex sepulerali - coffin
ex spongia - from the sponge
ex sportula - from the little
ex stipite affixionis - probably means "from the whipping post"
ex strato - from the covering [blanket]
ex subucula - from the tunic
ex tegumentis - from the skin
ex tela serica quae tetigit cor - from the silk cloth which touched the heart
ex Titulus Crucis - from the title board of the cross
ex tunica - from the tunic
ex velo - of the veil
ex veste carne imbuta - from the vestment imbued with the flesh
ex mensae coenae D.N.J.C. - the room where the Last Supper took place
ex sindonis D.N.J.C. - from the burial shourd of Our Lord Jesus Christ
ex sudarii - from the sudarium or face cloth


​Initial that follows the name to which the relic belongs:
AP. (or A.) - Apostle
C. - Confessor
D. - Doctor of the Church
D.N.J.C. - of Our Lord Jesus Christ
E. (or Ep.) - Bishop
E. (or Ev.) - Evangelist
F. - Founder of Order
Lev. - Deacon
M. - Martyr
Mil. - Soldier
Poen. - Penitent
PP. - Pope
Sp. - Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Reg. - King or Queen

V. - Virgin
B.V.M. - Blessed Virgin Mary
Vid. - Widow


 



Photos by:  Matthew Larcinese, Abruzzo, Italy. 

Citations:

Boehm, Barbara Drake. "Relics and Reliquaries in Medieval Christianity". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000.   (originally published October 2001, last revised April 2011)  http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/relc/hd_relc.htm
Code of Cannon Law
"For All the Saints". Retrieved July 11, 2014, from http://www.forallthesaints.info/about.htm

Digging the Past, Inc. 

Photos by:  Matthew Larcinese, Abruzzo, Italy.

RELICS AND RELIQUARY

Thecas 

Religious relics (bones, cloth, fragments) can also be stored in small decorative vessels called thecas. A theca is normally a round or oval metal pendant (diameters vary) with a glass crystal cover providing an easy review of the encased relic. The relic inside the theca will be labeled with a handwritten description bearing the saint’s name. The back of the Theca will have a red wax seal or insignia of the issuing religious authority along with the official Church document, called the authentic that accompanies every first class relic. The Authentic certification is often written in Latin, and describes the theca and the relic, and verifies that the relic is from the saint whose name appears on the label. Thecas can also be placed in side of reliquaries. During the Roman persecution of Christians, the remains of thousands of Christians were taken to subterranean burial chambers in Rome known as the Catacombs, where veneration of Christian martyrs’ bones very likely began. While the official Roman Catholic teaching on relics dates to the Council of Trent (1566), the earliest written reference to the preservation and veneration of a saint’s bones is recorded in The Martyrdom of St. Polycarp (c. 155-157 AD).

Photos by:  Matthew Larcinese, Abruzzo, Italy. 

Third Class Relics are items, usually pieces of cloth, that have been touched to a first or second class relic

There Are Three Classes of Relics: 

First Class Relics are instruments of Our Lord's Passion or body parts of those declared blessed or saints by the Church

Photo by:  Matthew Larcinese 

Reliquary furnished and relics recovered by: Matthew Larcinese, Abruzzo, Italy. 

All photos by:  Matthew Larcinese, Abruzzo, Italy. 

Photo by:  Matthew Larcinese, Rome, Italy. 

Background

Barbara Drake Boehm from the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art wrote the following about the relics and reliquaries:

Christian belief in the power of relics, the physical remains of a holy site or holy person, or objects with which they had contact, is as old as the faith itself and developed alongside it. Relics were more than mementos. The New Testament refers to the healing power of objects that were touched by Christ or his apostles. The body of the saint provided a spiritual link between life and death, between man and God: "Because of the grace remaining in the martyr, they were an inestimable treasure for the holy congregation of the faithful." Fueled by the Christian belief in the afterlife and resurrection, in the power of the soul, and in the role of saints as advocates for humankind in heaven, the veneration of relics in the Middle Ages came to rival the sacraments in the daily life of the medieval church. Indeed, from the time of Charlemagne, it was obligatory that every altar contain a relic.