The Classification of Relics.

Wordrelic is derived from the Latin word relinquo meaning I leave, or I give up.. The Church recognizes therelics as being one of three different classes; First class, second class and third class. Some Catholics believe there is a fourth class distinct from the third. For the purposes of this article, we will discuss all three classes, noting the fourth where appropriate.

From the earliest times, the faithful fervently preserved the objects relating to the tortures of themartyrs (Thus we see in the account of the martyrdom of Saint Cecilia, for example, that the people of her house soak canvases with the blood that the Saint is spilling).


Saint Yvon reliquary patron saint of lawyers at


The faith of the Church thus showed that the sacrifice of the martyrs was united to that of their divine Redeemer and that if in the eyes of the foolish they seemed to die, and their departure from this world seemed a misfortune, they are in peace. Even though before men they suffered chastisements, their hope was full of immortality. a perfect burnt offering (Sap. III, 2-5).-5).

After the pacification that followed the Edict of Milan (in 313), the cult developed and large churches were erected on the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and on those of other particularly venerated saints such as Saint Sebastian,Saint Anthony, Saint Agnes etc..
Saint Helena, mother of Saint Constantine the Great, searched the Holy Land for places and objects that were linked to the life and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
The basilicas that were erected at that time were therefore like great reliquaries in which were kept the tombs of the Saints or objects particularly precious to the Christian faith (the holy cross and the objects of the Passion, the Holy Sepulchre, the Grotto of the Nativity etc.)..

From that moment also, the translations of bodies or holy objects were carried out: when the place of burial did not lend itself to the construction of the place of worship envisaged, or when (because of the length and the difficulties of the trips) we preferred to split the places of veneration and that we began to share the relics.s.

A little later, at the time of the great Barbarian or Norman invasions, the fears linked to destruction and looting were also the occasion for the relics being moved, sometimes giving rise to solemn processions, to resounding miracles too, and to an extension devotion to the saint whose body had been transported.

The celebration of the Holy Mysteries on the very tomb of the martyrs is also at the origin of the use of the translation of relics for the ceremonies of consecration of churches and altars: it even became obligatory to insert relics of saints into the table of consecrated stone, in the hollow of a small cavity (called a tomb) that the consecrating bishop solemnly seals.

The development of the fruits of holiness in the Church and the increase in the number of Saints also of course led to the development of the cult of relics.

Relics are distinguished by classes:

a) Are considered "first class" relics

the bodies of the saints or the important fragments of these bodies (skull we speak of the chief, whole bones); Objects directly associated with events in the life of Christ (crib,, cross, etc.), or the physical remains of a saint (a bone, a hair, a limb, etc.) Traditionally, the relics of a martyr are often more prized than the relics of other saints. Also, the relics of some saints are known for their extraordinary incorruptibility (human remains do not deteriorate as one would expect). For example, a 500 year old body seems to still be in the wake) and are therefore highly valued. It is important to note that the parts of the saint that were important in his life are more prized relics. For example, the right forearm of King Saint Stephen of Hungary is particularly important because of his sovereign status. The head of a famous theologian may be his most important relic. (The head of Saint Thomas Aquinas was removed by the monks of the Cistercian abbey of Fossanova where he died). If a saint has traveled extensively, the bones of his feet may be prized.


 first class ex ossibus relics of holy martyrs on


  • ex ossibus - bones
  • ex raw - of the leg
  • ex brachio - arm
  • former meat - flesh
  • ex corpore - from the body
  • ex praecordis - stomach or intestine
  • ex pili - hair (hair, beard or mustache)
  • ex cineribus - ashes (burnt martyr)
  • ex exuis - ashes or dust (collected on the slab of the martyrium)
  • ex tela blood imbuta - cloth soaked in blood
  • ex tela imbuta cineribus - ash-soaked cloth
  • ex lignum Crucis D.N.J.C. - wood from the cross of Domini Nostri Jesus Christi (Our Lord Jesus Christ)
  • ex rupe presepij - from the grotto of the Nativity
  • ex shovel - skin
  • ex blood - some blood
  • ex sindonis D.N.J.C. - the shroud of Domini Nostri Jesus Christi
  • ex sudarii - the shroud
  • Ex Arundine D.N.J.C. - of the cane of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • Ex Bireto - from the biretta
  • Ex Petrae Calvariae - from the rock of Golgotha
  • Ex Coenaculum - from the place of the Last Supper
  • Ex Cincturae - of the Belt
  • Ex Cingendo (Ex Cingulo) - of the Belt
  • Clavus - sacred nail
  • Ex Colum. of the Flag. - of the Pillar of Flagellation
  • Ex Corona Spinensis (Coronse spinse) D.N.J.C. - the crown of thorns of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • Ex lignum Crucis D.N.J.C. - Wood of the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • SS. Crucis D.N.J.C. - the Most Holy Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • Ex Cunis (Cunabulum) - from the Holy Crib of Our Lord.
  • Ex Domo - either the Domo Lauretana or the House of Ephesus.
  • Ex Fascia - from the band / from the scarf
  • Ex Fune - rope
  • Lancea Longini - the Holy Lance
  • Ex Lacte B.V.M. - milk of the Blessed Virgin Mary
  • Ex Mensa Ult. Cenae - from the Last Supper Table
  • Ex Praesepe D.N.J.C - particle of the grotto of the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Ex Rupe M. Calvario D.N.J.C. - Particle of the Stone of Mount Calvary of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • Ex Sindone D.N.J.C. - Shroud of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Turin, Constantinople)
  • Ex Sepulcro D.N.J.C. - Particle from the empty tomb of Our Lord Jesus Christ
  • De Sponga - particle of the Holy Sponge
  • Ex Stipite Affixionis - from the whipping post
  • Ex Sudarii - Cloth of Sweat (Shroud of Oviedo)
  • Ex Titulus D.N.J.C. - of the Titulus IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDAEORVM which would have been affixed to the cross of Jesus.
  • Ex Velo - of the Protective Veil, Pokrov
  • Ex Alba Jacket - from the white garment of Our Lord.
  • Former Incons Jacket. - the seamless mantle of Our Lord
  • Ex Vinctum - robe or chain that bound Our Lord.

b) "Second class" relics



 reliquary of the holy nail on


A second class relic differs from the first class, in that they are the possessions or tools that belonged to or were used by a saint during his lifetime. Items such as clothing, jewelry, sceptres, bibles, and hand tools could all be considered second-class relics, as long as they were used by a saint.

In the case of a martyr, the instruments of his disappearance can also be considered a second-class relic. The tools used in the process of torturing or executing the saint, while morbid to some, can be just as powerful as a ring worn by a saint. This may extend to the wood used to make the cross on which they may have been crucified, the rope with which they may have been hung, or even the ashes from when they were burned on the pile, such as Joan of Bow.


  • ex pallio - coat
  • ex bike - veil
  • ex indumentis - clothing (the expression sometimes refers to a third and fourth class relic)
  • ex arca sepulchralis - the sepulchral ark (tomb or quadrangular coffin in the shape of a chest and closed by a lid of various shapes)
  • ex cilicio - hair shirt
  • Ex arca sepulcrali - from a coffin
  • Ex baculo - from the stick
  • Ex bireto - from the beret
  • Ex calciamentum - shoes/sandals
  • Ex camiseta - from the shirt
  • Ex casula - from the grave
  • Ex cilitio (cilicum) - from the hair shawl
  • Ex domo - from home
  • Ex warp - rope
  • Ex Inducio - from the cover
  • Ex incunabula - from the cradle
  • Ex indumentis - of the garment
  • Ex ligno - wood
  • Ex linteis - fabric
  • Ex locii - of place, location
  • Ex pallio - from the pallium (omophor), a woolen coat
  • Ex pileolo - of a cap
  • Ex pluviali - screed
  • Ex praecepis - from the place of birth, from the manger
  • Ex scutello - from the shield
  • Ex sindone - from the shroud
  • Ex sportula - from the little basket
  • Ex stola - of the dress
  • Ex strato - from the envelope (cover)
  • Ex subuculi - from the undergarment, from the shirt
  • Ex tela serica quae tetigit cor - silk fabric that touched the heart
  • Ex tunica - from the tunic, from the garment
  • Ex bike - sailing
  • Ex velo que involuta (of the fabric that wrapped the relics)
  • Ex vessillo - from the mantle
  • Ex vestimentis - clothing
  • Ex vestibus - of clothing




 reliquary, relic ex tunica of saint tarcisius on



c) "third class" relics

A third-class relic is any object, new or old, which has come into contact with the remains of a saint, or pressed against his tomb or reliquary; in other words a first class relic. This could include grave tissues that were used at their funeral, the ground they were buried in, the remains of their coffin, or more recent items such as tissues, pendants or mantillas , which were blessed by God when placed against the first-class relic.

Third-class relics are carried, transported, or kept at home, for the protection, divine guidance, and assistance of their patron saint.

The debate over fourth-class relics comes from the inclusion of pieces of the saint's tombstone, if there was one, and items that were pressed or rubbed on second-class relics. Some Catholics categorically ignore these relics as being genuine relics, others consider them third class. We have not been able to find a definitive answer on the Church's position on these items, so we advise you to follow your own faith and belief for these particular relics.

The veneration of holy relics belongs to the cult of dulie it is not a cult of adoration but of veneration, adoration being due to God alone, but it is moreover a cult that is said relative, because, through the relic, it is actually addressed to the person of the Saint, and not to the object itself.-même.

Verification of the authenticity of relics is essential before offering them for veneration by the faithful: this authentication is entrusted to cardinals, bishops, certain specially authorized priests (major superiors of religious or vicars general in certain cases).
This authenticity is certified by a written document called an authentic and by the seals that close the reliquary.ire.
It is accepted that one can continue to offer relics for the veneration of the faithful when this certificate of authenticity has been destroyed or lost, on the condition that the seals of the reliquary are intact.

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