Authenticity of relics
#1
Greetings! How does one go about authenticating a relic? I have some relics and am hoping to figure out if they are legitimate. Both reliquaries have seals. I do not have paperwork or any documentation. 

Thank you!
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#2
(09-08-2019, 10:09 AM)antimodernist Wrote: Greetings! How does one go about authenticating a relic? I have some relics and am hoping to figure out if they are legitimate. Both reliquaries have seals. I do not have paperwork or any documentation. 

Thank you!

creating "relics" used to be big business, made just for the tourists, often American, visiting the little places in France and Italy.  Grand Tour type of stuff.  Convents made relics for income - usually the nuns had nice handwriting on the little pieces of paper attached.  I am not saying that the nuns were lying, I doubt very much that they lied, but they had to get their relics from somebody, and there are an awful lot of True Cross relics floating around.
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Without documentation or paperwork you will have a very, very difficult job ahead.  Not saying it can't be done, but it will be tough.  Relics, or "relics", can be purchased on many antiques websites, even the big sites with good reputations.
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#3
There is no real way to "authenticate" relics where the original authentication (which is the documentation) has been lost.

Someone who is knowledgeable about relics will probably be able to give a good opinion on whether what you have is legitimate or not. There are certainly some signs which would suggest the likelihood that a relic was authentic, and others which would not, but undocumented relics generally are reduced to private devotion. Documentation is needed for the public veneration of any relics.

What relics do you have and why are you wanting to authenticate them?

You are not thinking of trying to put them up for sale, are you? It is unfortunate that many people who have received relics, often from closed churches or family members are putting them up for sale. Often knowing that documented relics fetch a higher price, people will try to figure out some way of getting documentation for these which sometimes lack a document. Unfortunately for them such sales are Simony, and gravely sinful.
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#4
(09-09-2019, 01:52 AM)MaryTN Wrote:
(09-08-2019, 10:09 AM)antimodernist Wrote: Greetings! How does one go about authenticating a relic? I have some relics and am hoping to figure out if they are legitimate. Both reliquaries have seals. I do not have paperwork or any documentation. 

Thank you!

creating "relics" used to be big business, made just for the tourists, often American, visiting the little places in France and Italy.  Grand Tour type of stuff.  Convents made relics for income - usually the nuns had nice handwriting on the little pieces of paper attached.  I am not saying that the nuns were lying, I doubt very much that they lied, but they had to get their relics from somebody, and there are an awful lot of True Cross relics floating around.
.
Without documentation or paperwork you will have a very, very difficult job ahead.  Not saying it can't be done, but it will be tough.  Relics, or "relics", can be purchased on many antiques websites, even the big sites with good reputations.

I was with a few priests in Rome at one point and we visited one of the monasteries there where the religious do offer relics to clergy and other religious for a small donation of about €10 per relic for their time and the cost of the theca. That is what a relic should "cost", so when one sees a theca for $500 on eBay, it's clear that this is not for the theca, but for the relic itself.

The postulator there (the one who prepares relics) took us to show us the treasury of relics from which they take these fragments. There were hundreds of very large relics there. In fact, it does not take a huge amount of bone to make a great number of relics, since each fragment is tiny. So, I have no doubt about the authenticity. Often, as you say, convents were charged with the care for such relics and the preparation of thecas.

As regards slivers of the True Cross, if one looks closely at authentic relics of the True Cross they are usually such small slivers that you could put thousands of them together and barely get a small hand-sized block of wood.

Even today there are sham relic producers. The fake bishop Ralph Napierski sells "relics" which are nothing more than little pieces of metal in which which he claims he has placed the actual relics to preserve them. That's never been done before, and the man clearly does not have access to the stuff he's sending out for money. So this kind of relic "creation" still exists.
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#5
(09-09-2019, 02:04 AM)MagisterMusicae Wrote: There is no real way to "authenticate" relics where the original authentication (which is the documentation) has been lost.

Someone who is knowledgeable about relics will probably be able to give a good opinion on whether what you have is legitimate or not. There are certainly some signs which would suggest the likelihood that a relic was authentic, and others which would not, but undocumented relics generally are reduced to private devotion. Documentation is needed for the public veneration of any relics.

What relics do you have and why are you wanting to authenticate them?

You are not thinking of trying to put them up for sale, are you? It is unfortunate that many people who have received relics, often from closed churches or family members are putting them up for sale. Often knowing that documented relics fetch a higher price, people will try to figure out some way of getting documentation for these which sometimes lack a document. Unfortunately for them such sales are Simony, and gravely sinful.

Definitely not wanting to sell them, as that would be simony. I have a reliquary with St. Gertrude V., St Anastasia V.M. and St. Ursula V.M. I have another reliquary will St. Maria Goretti. I am actually looking to trade the St. Maria Goretti relic for a pre-Schism saint relic. I just want to know if they are legit.
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#6
(09-09-2019, 12:25 PM)antimodernist Wrote: Definitely not wanting to sell them, as that would be simony. I have a reliquary with St. Gertrude V., St Anastasia V.M. and St. Ursula V.M. I have another reliquary will St. Maria Goretti. I am actually looking to trade the St. Maria Goretti relic for a pre-Schism saint relic. I just want to know if they are legit.

Well there are a few things to do to see about the likely authenticity of these.

Firstly, examine the relics themselves and their cases. Are they all in metal thecas? Other forms are pretty rare.

Second, compare ages of the insides and outsides. Do they appear to be the proper age? New relics are fairly rare for older saints. They do happen, but if you have a very modern looking relic of a very ancient Saint, be suspect.

Third, open the back of the theca and see if it is properly sealed and threads are intact. If not, suspect it was tapered with. See if you can match up the seal with an order or prelate and if the dates seem to make sense. If it looks ancient, but has a modern bishops' seal, it's probably fake.

Fourthy, compare with what you find on http://www.forallthesaints.info/fakes.htm . They have a good list of common fakes with pictures.

As regards the St Maria Goretti, the postulators of the cause and possessors of her relics are the Passionists in Rome, so if you look at the theca, you should see a seal with matches the seal of the Passionists. If so, it's probably authentic. I have several of her and from the Passionists. Some of their recent things are very poorly made, but I obtained them directly from them (via a priest intermediary) so am certain of their origin and authenticity. I have certificates, also poorly made, so while poor quality is a usual give away of a fake, it's not always so.
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