|The skull of St. Wenceslaus of Bohemia|
None of the relics I saw on Friday (there were 168 in all) were as impressive as the one depicted above. Almost all of them were tiny fragments of bone (ex ossibus in Latin) or clothing (ex indumentis) placed in a theca, a small, circular, gold container, which in turn was placed in a standing display. The theca (meaning "receptacle" in Latin) is sealed in a special way, using four strings and a wax seal impressed with the signet of an appropriate authority (a bishop, an abbot, or a postulator), and is always accompanied by a certificate attesting to its authenticity. The lack of any of these things -- the strings, the seal, the certificate -- makes the relic dubious and thus not fit for public veneration. During the Middle Ages, the creation of fake relics was almost an industry, thus necessitating the Church's oversight and regulation of the practice, including the banning of the sale of relics. This prohibition continues to this day.
In regulating relics, the Church distinguishes between three types. First class relics are either items associated with the life of Christ (like a piece of the Cross, for example -- one of which was at my parish's exhibition) or the physical remains of a saint. The vast majority of the relics I saw were first class relics. Second class relics are items worn or frequently used by a saint. Third class relics are items touched to a first or second class relic. Consequently, many people at the exhibition brought rosaries, crucifixes, and similar objects to touch to the relics on display so as to create third class relics from them.
|Theca of a relic of St. Louis de Montfort|
None of D&D's relics seem to be the objects of veneration. Rather they're just powerful magic items -- another example of the game's often reductionist appropriation of religion and mythology. But that didn't stop me from inventing my own more saintly relics in my campaigns of old (like the Sword of St. James) and attaching them to pilgrimage sites rather than throwing them in a dragon's hoard somewhere. The structure of the Dwimmermount campaign's cosmology does not (at present) allow for saintly relics, so I don't have any new ones to share. However, that may change in the future, as more of the setting's ancient past is made known through the actions of the PCs, in which case I may return to this topic in earnest.
|Thecae in display stands|