The 5 Most Insanely Disturbing Religious Artifacts
When you think of a religious relic, you probably picture the sort of thing Indiana Jones would go spelunking for. A golden chalice, a sacred gemstone, a fancy dagger somebody once stabbed a demon with. But in the real world, a "relic" usually consists of a saint's body part that was lopped off and turned into a candelabra or something, for batshit insane reasons that have been lost to the sands of time. Unsurprisingly, some of these relics can get downright gross. Such as ...
The Tongue And Jaw Of Saint Anthony Of Padua
The patron saint of the lost (things and people, not the TV show), Anthony of Padua is one of the rare, unlucky few to succumb to a disease bearing their own name. In the ripe old year of 1231, at the unripe age of only 35 or so, Saint Anthony came down with a raging case of Saint Anthony's Fire (also known as ergot poisoning), and thus retreated to a small cell beneath a walnut tree to live out his final, agonizing days. Thirty years after his death, his admirers decided to pry open his vault and see how he'd been getting along, because apparently you have to check on dead bodies every few years like they're casks of wine. As it so happens, most of Saint Anthony had turned to dust ... with the purportedly miraculous exception of his tongue, which was described as having been "uninjured, fresh, and of a lively red color."
It looks like a somewhat less lively piece of beef jerky today.
Saint Bonaventure was so enamored of the unrotten tongue that he snatched it up and kissed it, in the most awkward tongue-kissing session outside of a middle school dance. Then he took it straight to the town metal smith to be smelted like a piece of supervillain armor so that people could continue to be inspired by it nearly a millennium later.
Not only that, but Bonaventure and Co. also took Saint Anthony's lower jaw (which must have been significantly less dusty than previously reported) and his goddamn vocal chords, and mounted them in something that looks less like an item of the divine and more like a puzzle box from a Guillermo Del Toro movie.
Is it possible for a lamp to scream? Yes.
It is unclear whether Anthony was named the patron saint of lost things after someone removed half of his face and neck, or if that was a happy accident.
Saint Clare's Fingernails And Hair Clippings
Saint Clare of Assisi was the founder of the Order of Poor Ladies, a religious order which, considering she lived from the late 12th to early 13th century, must have had quite the extensive membership roster. Also, despite the fact that she died nearly 700 years before its invention, she's inexplicably the patron saint of television -- presumably because in pictures, she looks like she's trying to get caught up on House Of Cards and someone in the room with her won't shut the fuck up.
"Jesus Christ, can you keep it down?"
As the story goes, one Christmas night, Clare was too sick to attend Mass. But as she lay in her chamber, vomit bucket at hand, she began to hear chanting. When she turned toward the sound, she saw the Mass being performed right on the wall of her room in glorious 3D, like some miraculous planetarium show. Therefore, in 1958, Pope Pius XII designated her the patron saint of the boob tube, probably because naming her the patron saint of tripping super-balls would have been frowned upon.
When it came to preserving a bit of this special lady for future generations to enjoy, the Church decided to go the dirty old sofa cushion route and settled on a crystal vial full of her fingernail clippings:
It is unclear whether they decided to collect these after her canonization, or if she had been doing so all along.
But wait, that's not all! If you travel to Santa Chiara Basilica in Assisi, you can also take a gander at a tiny, gilded casket containing locks of Saint Clare's hair, pictured above. The Saint Clare reliquary is one leather-bound journal and some Scotch tape away from being something you'd find in Buffalo Bill's basement.
Saint Catherine's Dismembered Body Is Scattered Across Italy
The fact that Saint Catherine of Siena existed at all is nothing short of miraculous. She was born in the 14th century in Tuscany, right around the time the Black Death was hitting its stride. Her twin sister Giovanna died shortly after their birth, a fate which had previously claimed a full half of their siblings. That's no small thing, considering the twins were the 23rd and 24th children born to their parents. For some reason, giving birth to two-dozen children and losing half of them to a terrifyingly relentless disease hadn't driven their mother to tie their father's dick into a knot like the end of a water balloon.
From a very young age, Catherine claimed to have had visions of Jesus, which eventually developed into what she called a "mystical marriage" -- a relationship signified not by a wedding ring, but by an invisible ring of Jesus's foreskin. In adulthood, Catherine worked her foreskin-clad fingers to the bone bettering the lives of the sick and the poor. The Church repaid her devoutness and selflessness by naming her the patron saint of a whole laundry list of things -- including nurses and illness -- and also by mounting her head in a fucking cuckoo clock.
The time is always Fear O'Clock.
After her death at age 33 (it seems sainthood is not a career path for those who wish to live to see middle age), Catherine was buried in a simple tomb. A few years later, however, Blessed Raymond of Capua decided that it would be better to honor her by moving her mortal remains to a basilica in her hometown of Siena. When her tomb was cracked open, they found that dampness had made quick work of her body, and upon attempting to move it, her head popped clean off like a delightful party favor.
Ever since, the Sienese have carefully guarded her head in much the same manner as the display window of a Los Angeles pawn shop.
That is, with rebar and prayers.
The rest of Catherine's remains were exuberantly spread all over Italy like butter on toast. Three fingers and a foot are in Venice, a hand and a shoulder blade are in Rome, and one of her ribs is in Florence.
The Holy Right Hand Of King Saint Stephen (Which Might Not Really Be His Hand)
When Saint Stephen, the first King of Hungary, died in 1038, conflict broke out over who should succeed him. Due to fears that his corpse would be desecrated, his body was removed from its tomb in St. Stephen's Basilica and whisked away to the crypt beneath it. When the body was being moved, it was discovered that its right hand was perfectly intact. This being the sign of an obvious miracle, his clenched holy fist was wrenched from his wrist and locked away in the basilica's treasury with the rest of the silver and gold and chopped-off body parts.
However, Merkur, the man tasked with guarding the treasury, stole the hand and hid it in his estate in what is now Romania. The hand was eventually recovered and stashed in an abbey built exclusively to house its righteous aura. In the following centuries, the relic amassed such a reputation that it went on tour through Bosnia and Vienna like an Eastern European metal band before finally making its way back to St. Stephen's Basilica, where to this day it is carried in procession every year on the Hungarian holiday of St. Stephen's Day. It's like their Fourth of July, but with fewer fireworks (and, consequently, fewer severed hands).
"Take that noise to Rome."
But as it turns out, the holy hand of King Saint Stephen might not actually be his hand. See, when the hand was recovered in Romania, a chronicler noted that it was wearing Saint Stephen's ring. But the Holy Right on display today not only has no ring, but shows no sign of having ever having had one. And the official coat-of-arms of the Romanian town that sprung up around the Holy Right clearly shows that it wasn't just a hand, but an entire arm bent at the elbow. So is whatever they're parading around today truly the righteous fist of King Saint Stephen? Or is it the hand of some peasant, because a stray dog got into the basilica and ate the real one?
Either way, it's a gross dead hand.
Saint Camillus's Ancient Salt-Cured Heart
The life of Camillus de Lellis didn't start out all that saintly. Born in 16th-century Naples, Camillus followed in his father's footsteps and went into soldiering ... right up until he discovered that gambling was way more lucrative. He stuck with that until he went broke and was forced to drive a donkey cart, which was enough to make him believe in divine retribution.
Camillus saw the error of his ways, repented, and devoted his life to caring for the sick. But because karma is not a Christian concept, the man endured a litany of ailments, including "a sore in his leg for forty-six years; a rupture for thirty-eight years which he got by serving the sick; two callous sores in the sole of one of his feet, which gave him great pain; violent nephritic colics, and for a long time before he died, a loss of appetite."
Only Italy could consider a loss of appetite the worst of that lineup.
At the age of 65, after a long life of caregiving, conflict, and pain, Camillus went forever to rest. Or at least, he did until someone decided to rip his Christ-loving heart out of his dead-ass chest. Saint Camillus's licorice heart has toured the world, from Thailand to the Philippines and all the way to Ireland. Here it is in its full, HD reliquary glory, in case you were never planning on eating ever again:
The act of parading around a dead man's heart seems somewhat at odds with Camillus' life's work of helping the sick and unfortunate, because it is an act that can be described by both of those words. If we were the wagering type (as Camillus certainly was), we'd be willing to bet that he'd prefer to let his mortal remains be composted in a tasteful grave somewhere, rather than jet-setting around the globe like a hotel heiress.
Cathal McGuigan writes about the news, boxing and nonsense from Derry, Ireland. You can follow him here. Laura H enjoys reading about dead people. Follow her on Twitter.
Also check out The 6 Stupidest Things Ever Done With Historic Treasures and 6 Priceless Ancient Artifacts (Destroyed By Idiots).
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