Throughout Christian history, there has been devotion to many relics. These are objects that are either the blood and bones of religious figures or items that these figures have touched or been associated with. During the Middle Ages, these relics increased in popularity to the point where each altar was expected to possess at least one. A good relic could increase the economy of a town, as pilgrims would travel to come and see the sacred relic of a treasured saint.
This led to many fake relics and the stealing of relics, such as the body of Saint Nicholas. Strangely enough, the thefts were always admitted in order to verify the authenticity of the relic. Countless relics were destroyed during the reformation, and those that survive today are often called into question. Here are just a few relics from medieval and ancient history that are missing today. Some are rumored to have been destroyed, while others are believed to be hidden, their locations a mystery.
The Holy Foreskin
Jesus was circumcised as an infant and it was believed by many that the skin cut from the infant was preserved. There was some reference to the foreskin being preserved by an old Hebrew woman in an alabaster box of old oil of spikenard. However, the foreskin largely disappeared after that, with no real mention of it again until the Middle Ages.
On December 25, 800, Charlemagne was purported to have given it to Pope Leo III in gratitude for crowning him Emperor. When asked where he got the holy foreskin, Charlemagne responded that it had been brought to him by an angel as he was praying at the Holy Sepulchre. Another report claims that it was given to him as a wedding present by Empress Irene. Pope Leo III then took the foreskin and placed it in Sancta Sanctorum and there it remained until Rome was sacked in 1527.
A German soldier stole the foreskin during the attack and took it to Calcata where he was captured. The soldier managed to hide the relic in his cell and there it stayed until it was found in 1557. From then on, the foreskin remained in Calcata and had several miracles attributed to it. The story and the miracles were enough to have the Catholic Church approve the authenticity of the skin in Calcata over the numerous other claims of holy foreskin.
In 1900, the Church grew tired of the celebration of the foreskin. So the Vatican issued a warning that anyone who so much as talked about the Holy Prepuce would be excommunicated. This did little to deter the people of Calcata, who were proud of their sacred relic and would march it through the streets every year on the Feast of the Circumcision. However, the practice stopped when the relic was stolen in 1983. Some believe that it was stolen by or sold to the Vatican in order to get people to stop talking about the foreskin. It has not been seen since.