[Above: The claimed bones of St Peter, in the niche where they were found, below St Peter's Basilica, in 1968: "The Lonely Pilgrim," Joseph Richardson]
relics, from holy shroud to sacred head St. Peter's Square. ... Bones said to have belonged to the saint are due to go on display at the Vatican. There is no way to confirm that these are the Apostle Peter's bones, but they probably are. However, as per the Vatican's policy of refusing to confirm or deny that any Catholic relic is authentic (including the Shroud of Turin), "No pope has ever stated categorically that the bones belonged to Saint Peter":
"Fragments of bones said to belong to the first Pope are to go on public display for the first time on Sunday. The remains, believed to belong to Saint Peter, the Christian martyr who died 1,950 years ago, will be shown off at a mass in St Peter's Square in the Vatican. The bones we discovered in a Roman cemetery in the Vatican in June 1968 but to date have not been exhibited. They are kept in an urn which is usually held in a private papal chapel. No pope has ever stated categorically that the bones belonged to Saint Peter" ("'Bones of Saint Peter' to go on public display for the first time," Daily Mirror, Chris Richards, 19 Nov 2013)... Once, the western world was full of relics. The bones and skin, fingernails and even heads of saints were preserved, bought and sold, stolen and cherished. Relics of holy people and of Jesus Christ were at the heart of medieval Christianity. While religious relics are not confined to Christianity, with even Islam venerating claimed relics of Mohammed:
"THE veneration of relics is practiced by Christians and non-Christians alike. It is in no way restricted to the Catholic religion, but is, to some extent, a primitive instinct with origins that predate Christianity. It is known, for instance, that relics of Buddha, who died in 483 B.C., were distributed soon after his death. Although there remain only a limited number of authentic relics, parts of his body, including teeth and hairs, have been carefully preserved and enshrined in various domed, towerlike shrines that are found in cities and in the countryside throughout the Buddhist world. ... The relics of Confucius have been venerated every year by Chinese and Asian peoples since the year 195 B.C. when Emperor Kao Tsu of the Han Dynasty visited the tomb and offered sacrifices. ... Relics of Mohammed, who died in A.D. 632, are likewise revered, these being two hairs of the prophet which are kept in a reliquary resembling a domed temple that stands several feet high beside the huge rock in a building in Jerusalem called the Dome of the Rock." (Cruz, J.C., "Relics," 1984, p.1)on the "principle of sufficient reason" the explanation for why Christianity has had such a huge emphasis on relics is that its `Big Bang' was the Shroud.
Today many relics have been discredited. Museums display empty reliquaries, crafted from gold and silver and laden with jewels – but bereft of the body parts that once gave them meaning. The key word is "many". Non-Christian `sceptics' (and even anti-Catholic Christians like the Protestant Reformer John Calvin), commit the logical fallacy that because most relics are fake, therefore all are.
Still, some relics are still cherished. They have survived sceptics, scientists and in some cases detailed exposure, to be revered as holy objects of awe. This is certainly true of the Shroud. As the late biophysicist Dr. John H. Heller pointed out, the Shroud is "the most intensively studied artifact in the history of the world":
"The Shroud of Turin is now the most intensively studied artifact in the history of the world. Somewhere between 100,000 and 150,000 scientific man-hours have been spent on it, with the best analytical tools available. The physical and chemical data fit hand in glove. It is certainly true that if a similar number of data had been found in the funerary linen attributed to Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, or Socrates, there would be no doubt in anyone's mind that it was, indeed, the shroud of that historical person. But because of the unique position that Jesus holds, such evidence is not enough." (Heller, J.H., "Report on the Shroud of Turin," 1983, p.218)yet modern science has not been able to show it to be a fake (including the 1988 carbon dating of the Shroud-see below), nor demonstrate how naturalistically its image was formed. As the Vatican puts the bones of St Peter on display, here are the top 10 extant Christian relics, from holy shroud to sacred head.
[The Shroud of Turin from a 1979 file photo. Photograph: Barrie M Schwortz/AP]
Despite being analysed by scientists and discredited as a medieval forgery, this centuries-old cloth bearing the image of a man is still seen by many as the burial shroud of Christ. The Shroud of Turin has not been discredited as a medieval forgery! If the 1988 radiocarbon dating of the Shroud as "medieval ... AD1260-1390" is what this journalist means, then Professor Christopher Ramsey, Director of Oxford's radiocarbon dating laboratory, and involved in the 1988 radiocarbon dating, has admitted:
"There is a lot of other evidence that suggests to many that the Shroud is older than the radiocarbon dates allow and so further research is certainly needed. It is important that we continue to test the accuracy of the original radiocarbon tests as we are already doing. It is equally important that experts assess and reinterpret some of the other evidence. Only by doing this will people be able to arrive at a coherent history of the Shroud which takes into account and explains all of the available scientific and historical information." (Ramsey, C.B., "Shroud of Turin Version 77," Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, 23 March, 2008. My emphasis)And Philip Ball, a former editor of the science journal Nature (the same journal which in 1989 claimed that the Shroud was "mediaeval"), candidly acknowledged:
"And yet, the shroud is a remarkable artefact, one of the few religious relics to have a justifiably mythical status. It is simply not known how the ghostly image of a serene, bearded man was made. It does not seem to have been painted, at least with any known historical pigments." (Ball, P., "To know a veil," Nature news, 28 January 2005. My emphasis)And again:
"It's fair to say that, despite the seemingly definitive tests in 1988, the status of the Shroud of Turin is murkier than ever. Not least, the nature of the image and how it was fixed on the cloth remain deeply puzzling." (Ball, P., "Material witness: Shrouded in mystery," Nature Materials, Vol. 7, No. 5, May, 2008, p.349. My emphasis).Its modern fame began when a photographer noticed it looks more detailed in negative, [That was Secondo Pia in 1898] implying the image itself is a reversed "negative" imprint of a body, which
[Above: Secondo Pia's 1898 negative photograph of the Shroud face: "1898 - Secondo Pia's photos," Shroud-of-turin.org. Arguably, next to the image on the Shroud itself, the most important photograph ever taken.]
some see as a bit beyond the capacities of medieval forgers. Given that even the concept of a photographic negative was unknown until the 1830s (i.e. ~480 years after the Shroud appeared in undisputed history at Lirey, France in the 1350s), a full-length, front and back, negative photograph of a body, was "beyond the capacities of medieval forgers"! [...]