| The dreams of man|
|Disturbing your sleep|
“”But isn't this relic matter a little overdone? We find a piece of the true cross in every old church we go into, and some of the nails that held it together. I would not like to be positive, but I think we have seen as much as a keg of these nails. Then there is the crown of thorns; they have part of one in Sainte Chapelle, in Paris, and part of one also in Notre Dame. And as for bones of St. Denis, I feel certain we have seen enough of them to duplicate him if necessary.
|—The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain|
The term "relic" in the context of religion is a technical term describing remains (usually of a person, though in some instances, objects of worship, bits of a building, etc.) that are held specifically for veneration or worship. Relics can be found in most religions, though what the relics mean to the people, and how they are viewed as religious or magical items, varies greatly.
Typically, believers preserve relics and isolate them from non-sacred acts by the building of temples or shrines to hold the relics, housing the relics in special boxes, or insuring that only particular people can see or touch them. Buddhism, for example, has a long history of including hair, nails, teeth or bits of bone in the clay used to make pottery, which is then formed for a temple and kept isolated.
Relics appear in the Old Testament as well. It could be argued that the Ark of the Covenant, containing the bits of the Ten Commandments, was a form of relic, and in Books of Kings, the bones of Elisha brought a man back to life.
“”And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the rovers from Moab came into the land the same year. And some that were burying a man, saw the rovers, and cast the body into the sepulchre of Elisha. And when it had touched the bones of Elisha, the man came to life and stood upon his feet.
|—2 Kings 13:20-21|
The Ethiopian Church has long claimed to possess the Ark itself, in a chapel in Aksum. Of course it is kept conveniently hidden from any and all who might wish to see or examine it.
“”And God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons: and the diseases departed from them: and the wicked spirits went out of them.
The Shroud of Turin is perhaps the most well known relic of Christianity, and there are an endless litany of objects marketed as "pieces of the cross", "burial cask of James", even "the very nails He was hung with" have been sold as relics of Jesus.
This explains the prevalent and ongoing Roman Catholic practice of chopping their most revered religious figures into tiny bits after death and distributing fragments of their remains to congregations around the world, rather than letting them rest in peace. Throughout the Catholic world, relics are present in the Churches, altars, and other holy sites. Protestant religions are far less likely to maintain relics, especially human remains.
Jesus himself left a paucity of human relics. However, the Catholic Church has not allowed itself to be inconvenienced, displaying in the Middle Ages several Holy Foreskins (at widely separated locations) as well as multiple complete sets of Jesus' baby teeth.
- The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple of Singapore
- Altar, Altar cavity The Catholic Encyclopedia (1907)