Pledges of the Saints: The Cult of Relics in the Catholic Tradition

Feb 13, 2021
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This event is co-presented with the Bollandist Society. This event is co-sponsored by America Media, the Collegium Institute, the Harvard Catholic Forum, the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, the Nova Forum, the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at USC, the Saint Benedict Institute, and the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage.

The physical remains of saints are often referred to as pignora, that is, as security deposits or pledges of the continued concern that the saints, although in heaven, continue to show for those who venerate them. In this lecture will discuss the origin of the cult of relics, the process by which these cults, originally concentrated on the tombs of saints, became mobile, and how the veneration of saints led to the dismemberment of saints’ bodies and the distribution of relics throughout Christendom. It will also consider the resulting anxieties about relics’ authenticity, the efforts to control and regulate the cult of relics, and the competition that relics have received from other types of sacred or sanctified objects.