The Roman Catholic Church is rife with relics.
One of the Church's most mysterious and contested ones, the Shroud of Turin, is said to be the cloth that was used to bury Christ after crucifixion. On Easter Saturday, the famous relic will be broadcast for the first time in 40 years -- one of Pope Benedict XVI's final acts before he resigned.
The Church has a long history of venerating physical remnants that in some way belonged to saints. This could be anything from articles of clothing to objects or even body parts.
The practice follows the belief that the saints’ bodies are “temples of the Holy Ghost” and should be “eternally glorified,” according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.
Here are five offbeat ones that test the limits of human preservation:
The Holy Foreskin
Jesus was born Jewish and according to God’s covenant with his “chosen people,” circumcision must be performed on baby boys. The Holy Foreskin or Holy Prepuce was said to be the last piece of Jesus Christ’s body to remain on earth after his death. During the Middle Ages, a dozen monasteries claimed to have this intimate relic. The only papal-approved version of the relic was believed to be given to Charlemagne on Dec. 25, 800. The last known sighting of the holy foreskin was in the Italian town of Calcata in 1983. Contained in a jeweled case, the piece of skin resembled a “red chickpea” and later disappeared.
St Januarius’ Blood
The patron saint of Naples who was martyred during the time of the Roman emperor, Diocletian, has some special blood. A vial of his blood has been preserved since the fourth century and regularly turns from solid to liquid form on his feast day. The strange event started happening after an earthquake in Naples in 1980. Ever since, the Roman Catholic Church has called it a miracle.
Virgin Mary’s Breast Milk
A popular medieval relic, the Virgin Mary’s breast milk, was believed to work miracles. To this day, a shrine in Bethlehem called the Milk Grotto commemorates the place where a drop of Mary’s breast milk fell onto a stone and turned it white. Legend has it that Saint Bernard, who was devoted to Mary, asked a statue of the Virgin if she could prove she was a mother. Apparently, the statue responded by squirting him with breast milk. A 1650 painting depicts the scene.
Saint Antoninus’ Body
When this archbishop died, his body was exposed for eight days but didn’t decompose. Known as a “super corpse,” his mummified body has remained intact and is considered a miracle. His body is in the same glass coffin it was put in more than 550 years ago in San Marco Church in Florence.
The Heart of Saint Brother André
One of the youngest saints, Brother André, who was known to perform miraculous healings, died Jan. 6, 1937, in Montreal. When he died, the archbishop of Montreal decided to revive the relic tradition and removed André’s heart from his body and had it preserved as a sign of respect for the saint. To this day, the heart remains in a reliquary at St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal.