Relics and Reliquaries: A Matter of Life and Death

Relics and Reliquaries: A Matter of Life and Death

Lecture by Cynthia Hahn

Given at the University of Florida on March 16, 2017

A not unusual modern response to reliquaries is disgust–after all they often contain bones.  To understand their presence, even their glorification, it must be admitted that the bones are not the ordinary subject of horror, rather as the bones of the blessed, “dem bones  gonna rise again”!  In a Christian understanding, they will be instrumental in linking heaven and earth.  Relics (with the help of their reliquaries) lead away from death and horror through intercession and access to salvation.  Indeed, only in a later, almost modern development did the bones–and the “economy” of death– become subjects of fascination in themselves.

Top Image: 13th century Reliquary Bust of Saint Yrieix – Metropolitan Museum of Art

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