Skip to main content

Collection of relics and reliquaries

Identifier: CSC-001

Scope and Contents

This collection is made up of reliquaries containing relics of a variety of saints. These include first-class relics, second-class relics, and third-class relics. The reliquaries are made of a variety of metals, wood, and fabric, and many are ornate in design. Many of the reliquaries are decorated with fabric, jewels, and paper ornamentation. Most of the relics have been sealed into the reliquary with a wax seal, denoting the priest that authenticated the relic. This collection also includes documentation for many of the relics. These documents authenticate the relics as being genuine, identify the saints, give physical descriptions of the reliquaries to assist in identification, and forbid the sale of the relics. This collection includes documentation that does not match any of the relics in the collection. Some of the relics in this collection do not have accompanying documentation, or insufficient description was given to provide certain correlation between the documents and the relics.

The reliquaries have been authenticated and matched to their documentation by Professor Joseph Jacobs in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Dayton.


  • 1795-2011


Language of Materials

Documents in this collection are in Latin and English.

Restrictions on Access

Open for research. Handling of items is limited due to their fragile and valuable nature. Reliquaries and documentation may not be removed from the reading room.

Copyright Notice

The materials in this collection may be protected by copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). The materials are available for personal, educational, and scholarly use. It is the responsibility of the researcher to locate and obtain permission from the copyright owner or his or her heirs for any other use, such as reproduction and publication.

History of Relics

In common terminology, there are three kinds of relics of saints. First-class relics are the physical remains of a saint, usually bone. Second-class relics are items worn or used by a saint, such as clothing or books. Third-class relics are items which have been applied to a higher-class relic, such as a piece of cloth pressed against the bones of a saint. "Reliquary" is the term used for the container that houses the relics, usually an ornate metal case with a glass window. When a relic is enclosed in a reliquary, an accompanying document is signed and sealed by a priest authenticating the relic.


15 Linear Feet (11 boxes of relics, 1 box of papers; additional relics are on display in the US Catholic reading room)


Collection of reliquaries and relics of various Catholic saints, and the accompanying documentation.

Statement of Arrangement

The arrangement of the documentation reflects the location of the corresponding reliquaries. Documentation that did not correspond to any reliquaries in the collection is arranged chronologically.


U.S. Catholic Special Collections, 302 Roesch Library

Acquisition Information

Collected for the U.S. Catholic Special Collection from various sources, including a large donation from the Congregation of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Springfield, Illinois.

Digital Collection

Photographs of items in this collection can be viewed at

Processing Information

Processed by Colleen Mahoney, March 15, 2011.

Additional relics in Boxes 13-16 added to the collection by Stephanie Soule, February 4, 2015.

Guide to the Collection of relics and reliquaries, 1795-2011
Colleen Mahoney
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Edition statement
2nd edition

Repository Details

Part of the University Libraries Repository

300 College Park Dr.
Dayton Ohio 45469-1360