Assorted Relics; The Holy Dexter, Jesus’ Crib and Royal Wedding Cake

Relics are the body parts and belongings of revered decedents.  Usually, relics are housed in beautiful containers called reliquaries.  Many cultures and religions have traditions of preserving relics and I often run into amazing reliquaries when I visit new places.

I saw one of my favorite- of- all- time relics  last winter in St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest. There, I beheld the reliquary that contains the rather spooky mummified right hand, “The Holy Dexter”, of St. Stephen, the founder and first king of Hungary.

Holy dexter

Image from Wikipedia. Click for source

Although St.Stephen died almost 1000 years ago, his hand is remarkably well preserved.  A sign in the church notes that the hand is “highly esteemed” by the nation.

This winter I discovered a wonderfully huge and beautiful reliquary in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. If you walk all the way to the front of the church, there are stairs leading down to The Crypt of the Nativity that holds a giant reliquary said to contain wood from Jesus’ crib!

 

crib

My photo.

After Rome, I came upon a bonanza of Roman Catholic reliquaries in the tiny hill town of Monreale, outside of Palermo, Sicily.  Although the town is small, it has a very famous cathedral dating from 1174.  Mostly to escape the rain, I ventured into the museum attached to the church and was gobsmacked by the many reliquaries I found. Here are some of my favorites, although there were many more:

monreale1 monreale2 monreale 3 monreale 4 monreale 5

Unfortunately, I couldn’t tell whose clearly visible bones or property were contained in the reliquaries.  Some had little typed labels inside the reliquaries, but to me they remain mysteries.

 

 

 

We continue to create relics and reliquaries in modern times.  For example, both John Lennon’s and Elvis’ teeth have been purchased (by a dentist, Dr. Michael Zuk) for preservation. The space suit that Neal Armstrong wore on the moon is also being preserved for future generations.

And last semester we learned that a piece of wedding cake from the 1981 wedding of Princess Di and Prince Charles was  purchased for $1375 in an online auction!

Image from The New York Daily News.  Click for source.

Wedding cake relic in original waxed paper wrapper and box.  Image from The New York Daily News. Click for source.

 

A few  months later, a slice of Prince William’s wedding cake (from his 2011 marriage to Kate) sold for $7500!

cake

Image from The Sun. Click for source.

 

According to The Telegraph, there is  “a small but dedicated group of royal cake collectors.  Some … have purchased cakes dating to the days of Britain’s Queen Victoria, who married in 1840.”

I don’t know how collectors preserve old cake, but I love that they are creating sweet modern royal relics!

 

 

 

 

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