Where are they now?

Places where the largest collection of relics of the Twelve and various Saints reside:

St Peter: Basilica of St Peter, Vatican City
St Andrew: Cathedral of St Andrew, Amalfi, Italy
St James, son of Zebedee: Santiago de Compostela (“Holy Jacob of the Field of Stars”)
St John: Cathedral of St John, Ephesus (ruined, but body disappeared long ago)
St Philip: Church of the Holy Apostles, Rome
St Bartholomew: Basilica of St Bartholomew, Island in the Tiber, Rome
St Thomas: Cathedral of St Thomas, Ortona, Italy
St Matthew: Cathedral of St Matthew, Salreno, Italy
St James, son of Alphaeus: Church of the Holy Apostles, Rome
St Judas Thaddaeus: Basilica of St Peter, Vatican City
St Simon the Zealot: Basilica of St Peter, Vatican City
St Matthias: St Matthias Church, Trier, Germany
St Paul: St Paul’s Outside The Walls, Rome
St Timothy: St Paul’s Outside The Walls, Rome
St James, the brother of Jesus: Armenian Cathedral of St James, Jerusalem
St Mark: Cathedral of St Mark, Cairo, Egypt
St Luke: Basilica of St Justina, Padua, Italy (his body)
           Cathedral of St Vitus, Prague (head)
St Barnabas: Monastery of St Barnabas, Salamis, Cyprus
St Stephen: Rotunda of St Stephen, Rome
St Titus: Church of St Titus, Heraklion, Crete
St John the Forerunner: Great Mosque, Damascus (his head)
St Ignatius of Antioch: Church of St Clement, Rome

Something I would love to do would be to touch the first page of each of the various New Testament books to the reliquaries of their authors. I’m sure that sounds bizarre to some readers, but to others, it’ll sound as wonderful as I think it would be. Maybe someday . . . .


  1. The dubious trade in relics – which lead to Martin Luther saying that there were enough pieces of the true cross scattered about Europe to build a sailing ship – would make your idea a bit of a dicey undertaking!
    Which reliquiary would you show St James without making him turn over in his grave?
    By the time the tomb at Compostela was claimed to be that of James the Greater, relics of St James had been displayed in reliquaries in shrines all over Europe. Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland – all had relics of James the Greater. There are three tombs containing his body, nine heads and numerous limbs!
    Toulouse still claims a relic of the Apostle kept in the church of St-Saturnin. An arm of Saint James had been kept in a reliquary in Venetia since 640. The hand of James was the main relic at Reading Abbey in England. (In a glass case at St Peter’s Church, Marlow, Buckinghamshire is a mummified hand some think is that of the Apostle James. It was found in an old iron chest by workemn digging at Reading Abbey in 1786.)
    The Coventry Priory and Cathedral contained the arm of St Augustine of Hippo, St Osburg’s head, and various other relics belonging to Becket, St Cecilia, St James and St George, St Jerome, St Andrew, St Lawrence and St Katherine.
    St.James’ arm was at Grisgon in the Church of the Holy Apostles.
    St James, hand (probably the other one!) at Church of St Peter in
    Rome. There was a rib of St James at Sallanches and even an entire body at Echirolles near Grenoble.

    And, the head of John the Baptist was in two shrines in France – at the same time!

    Nah! I don’t think its bizarre – just a bit dicey!

  2. Dicey, indeed! My focus, though, was on those locations of major relics which are agreed upon from the Eastern Orthodox perspective, which in very many cases is known because the relics were taken from Orthodox churches in the East during the Crusades. It’s those with such histories that I would trust before going so far as to simply accept the multiplied heads of Saint John the Forerunner, or somesuch.

    Perhaps a perfect example is that of the true relics of the True Cross, of which there are very, very few, and all have a traced history back to the Cross fragment found by St Helena in Jerusalem. Of course there are also many fakes, perhaps enough to amount to more than the mass of a full cross (I doubt Luther actually took measurements — hyperbole was more fun, obviously), but these are obviously fakes. The real True Cross fragment was stolen from Constantinople, along with nearly all other relics, during the Fourth Crusade and the period of Latin rulership of the city. If it made it back to Europe, it was likely destroyed during the Reformation, precisely because of such outrageous, foolish, un-Christian attitudes as Luther’s. Steal it all and then destroy it. Classy.

    Anyhow, thanks for writing!

  3. Dicey, yes. In 2002 I had no trouble going up to kiss the reliquary of Saints Simon and Jude in St. Peter’s Basilica. In 2005, guards swarmed in on me. Everyone’s on edge looking for terrorists, and I probably fit the profile they learn in security-guard school.

    I know you didn’t say it, but I’d like to state for the record that Latins don’t have a monopoly on outrageous, foolish, or un-Christian attitudes, though we certainly have our share. As much as I deplore the events that immediately preceded the east-west rupture, those events had themselves been preceded by centuries of deplorable events, like the brutal massacre of all the Franks living in Constantinople — men, women, and children, the elderly, and even the sick in their beds. There should be plenty of sackcloth to go around.

    Not long ago I gave a talk to an ecumenical group, and during the Q&A a gentleman stood up and urged us all to strive for greater tolerance and understanding of Islam. He belonged to a non-Chalcedonian Eastern church. Later I made sympathetic comments about Byzantium, and the guy stood up again, furious about events that had take place fifteen centuries ago, perpetrated, he said, by the Byzantine Church. The Orthodox in the room were as nonplussed as most “Latins” are by Crusade grudges.

  4. There are enough sins to go around, for sure.

    I was (and am) more upset by the loss of these things to everyone, particularly during the Reformation throughout Europe, with its wholesale destruction of relics, art, architecture, and ancient masterpieces, with the same later during the French Revolution, and of course during the Soviet era. The loss of this physical expression of Tradition makes it easier for crap like The Da Vinci Code to be believed, when so much of the real artifactual evidence is lost to us due to misdirected zeal. The Enemy hates the Truth, in spiritual, intellectual, or physical format, and will always target it.

    Also, as I remind my Orthodox friends, the perpetrators of the Fourth Crusade were immediately excommunicated by the Pope. Also, there were certainly many more venal wearers of the purple on the Augustan throne in Constantinople than there were saints, by any reckoning. How many times does the West have to apologize? Or the East? Once is enough for me. All those people are long dead, and we have one another to work with in the here and now. My own sins are more than enough to occupy my time, rather than those of some long-dead 6th or 13th century people.

  5. Amen, amen. Now if only we can make the world safe enough, once again, so we can together venerate the apostles’ relics — without alarming the security guards!

  6. There is a tiny part of the relics of St. John the Evangelist in the amulet of St. Philip of Moscow which is kept at Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco.

  7. I came upon this entry bit late, but I have one question. I am curious about relic listed here for Prague cathedral of St. Vitus (St. Vitus, St. Wenceslaus and St. Adalbert /Vojtech/ to be official and exact 😉 ).

    As much as I learned last year durig a trip across Northern Italy that St. Luke relics are kept in St. Guistina church in Pauda (compared to st. Mark and Venice, poor Luke is somewhat “among others” in this fair city, St. Anthony seems to steal the show there, and also St. Guistinia being local… ;-). To get to point, I am from Czech republic and to this day i hava almost no idea that Prague cathedral keep so venerable a relic. There is, of course, St. Vitus, Czech saints with st. Wenceslaw, St. Vojtech, St. John Nepomuk, and others – St. Catherina of Alexandria comes to mind (at least I hope I remember correctly that her i believe arm was obtained by czech king and emperor Charles IV).

  8. Dear Martin,
    Thank you for the local input! Very interestingly, the relics of St Luke, including the body in Padua, the head (formerly?) in Prague, and a tooth in Greece (which fits into the head in Prague perfectly) have been subjected to various investigations, as described here and here.

    In the years since those articles, it’s entirely possible that the relics of St Luke have returned to Greece, so my information may be incorrect, but I haven’t heard of that.

    So, if you visit the Cathedral, and manage to view the relics of the Holy Evangelist Luke, ask him to pray for me!

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