Bones, skin, hearts, and severed heads: it sounds like the contents of a cabinet of curiosities, the sort of death-obsessed exploitation of bell-jarred oddities that one would find next to unicorn horns and taxidermied birds of paradise. But we’re not talking about a cabinet of wonders. We’re talking about religious relics and artifacts. The bones and bodies of saints have been preserved, celebrated, worshipped, and stolen. They have long represented a transcendental bridge between God and man, and atavism and science. In other words, the bones of Saint Peter have power, as does the head of Saint Catherine of Siena and the Shroud of Turin. While many holy objects have been discredited, thousands of people still line up to pay respects to the gilded tongue of St Anthony of Padua and other grizzly displays of religious iconography.
If relics and artifacts are the physical embodiment of God’s work on earth, then what does one make of the relics and artifacts that are mysterious and other-worldly, not the work of God, or man, but of something else? Conspiracy and religion go hand-in-hand, and there are several religious relics that seem as if they’ve been left behind by other civilizations, from strange orbs and spheres to the Mayan artifacts released in 2012 by the Mexican government that possibly depict aliens and alien aircraft. Here are 10 of the strangest religious artifacts.
10 Mandylion of Edessa
9 The Body of St Mark
8 The Guatemala Stone Head
7 Blood of Saint Januarius
6 The Incorrupt Tongue of Saint Anthony of Padua
5 The Ubaid Lizardmen
4 The Hand (and Toe) of St Francis Xavier
3 Virgin Mary’s Breast Milk
2 The Glorification of the Eucharist
1 The Holy Prepuce
According to Luke 2:21 in the New Testament, after his birth, Jesus was circumcised according to Jewish tradition. Whether true or not, paintings on the subject were popular in Venice in the 15th and 16th century, and the holy foreskin, which was said to have great power, became the most coveted religious relic of the Middle Ages. Several churches claimed to have the holy prepuce, which according to the Arabic Infancy Gospel was saved in an alabaster box. At the height of foreskin mania, 18 different churches claimed to have the “genuine article” –Charroux Abbey, in France, even went so far as to say it inherited the holy prepuce from Charlemagne. Sick of the controversy, in the 1900s the Vatican said the holy foreskin encouraged “irreverent curiosity” and declared that anyone talking about the relic would be banished from the Church.
Sources: <strong> </strong>TimesOfIndia.com, CatholicNewsAgency.com, TheGuardian.com
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