Joan of Arc was nothing more than a peasant girl until she rose to fame as leader of the medieval French forces. Joan was found guilty of heresy and witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1431 at the mere age of 19. It was said that her heart and intestines would not burn in the flames and therefore it was ordered that all of the ashes and remains of the body be thrown into the Seine River.
For this reason, there are no verified first class relics of Saint Joan of Arc. There is a jar of remains at the Chinon Castle Museum that is said to have been taken from the ashes at the stake of Joan of Arc, but it cannot be proven.
There are some other relics from Joan that survived for a time. There was a wax seal to one of Joan’s letters that she had placed one of her hairs. The hair disappeared during the second half the 19th century and no one knows where it is now. There was also a grey hat that was owned by Joan and given to Charlotte Boucher. It was given to the Oratorian Order of Priests in the 1600s where it stayed until it was taken by revolutionaries and purportedly burned in 1792.
There was also a sword that belonged to Joan and was kept by the descendants of her brother Pierre until it was lost during the chaos of the revolutionary period in France. It was also during the height of the French Revolution that Joan’s standard was believed to be burned and destroyed. Joan also kept a ring that was described during her trial. This relic is claimed to have been found and now in the possession of a private collector but the ring does not match the description given by Joan at her trial.
The Ark of the Covenant is one of the most famous relics of the Christian and Jewish faiths. The Ark of the Covenant was built by Moses according to a pattern provided to him by God. The Book of Exodus tells that the Ark was built while Moses was on Mount Sinai. The Ark was created to hold the Ten Commandments and was connected to numerous miracles, including clearing obstacles from their path and stopping the flow of the Jordan River so that the Israelites could cross.
In 597 and 586 BC, the Babylonian Empire conquered the Israelites. The Ark at the time was said to be housed in the temple of Jerusalem. After the Temple fell to the Babylonians, the Ark disappeared. There is no evidence as to whether the ark was destroyed, was hidden by the Israelites, or was stolen by the Babylonians.
There are several theories as to the fate of the Ark, and a few people have claimed to have found it. One theory is that the Ark was smuggled away to Ethiopia before the Babylonians reached Jerusalem. It is now believed by some to be at the St. Mary of Zion cathedral in Askum. Church authorities have only permitted one man, the guardian of the ark, to see it and have never allowed it to be studied for authenticity.
There was another theory that said that the Ark was hidden beneath the First Temple in Jerusalem before it was destroyed in 586 BC. The site is home to the Dome of the Rock shrine, and is sacred in Islam and therefore no digging to find the Ark is allowed. In 1982, Ron Wyatt claimed to find the Ark beneath the hill on which Christ had been crucified. The Ark was never seen again and Ron Wyatt was known for dubious archaeological finds.
The missing relic of Saint Christopher is particularly interesting because there are some who claim that he never existed. Some people debate whether or not he was a real person or if the term “Christopher” or “Christ-bearer” was a general title that was given to several people. The story for which he is most known was that he carried a child across a river before the child was later discovered to be Christ.
Saint Christopher was later said to have visited Lycia where he tried to comfort the Christians who were being martyred. The local king attempted to get Christopher to make a sacrifice to pagan gods but he refused. Then the king tried to tempt him with women and riches, but instead he converted the women to Christianity. The king then ordered that Christopher be killed, and the Saint was beheaded.
There is one relic that is said to be the gold plated head of Saint Christopher that is kept at the Museum of Sacred Art at Saint Justine’s Church in Croatia. The head is rarely seen but church tradition tells the story of when the bishop showed the relics in 1075 in order to convince the Italo-Norman army to stop the siege on the city. That is the only recorded relic of the Saint, but a statue at the Metropolitan museum suggests that there have been more.
This elegant statue beautifully depicts Saint Christopher with Christ upon his shoulder. The statue also features the staff which was said to bring the miracle of Christ for when Christopher planted the staff in the ground, it bore leaves and fruit the following morning. At the base of the statue is the spot where a now missing relic once resided. The relic would have been placed in a small box of crystal so that the relic could be seen.
The story of the Veil of Veronica was not recorded in its present form until the Middle Ages. The stories of Veronica and her veil began appearing in different forms in the 11th century, and the final Western version tells of a meeting between Saint Veronica and Jesus. Saint Veronica encountered Jesus along the Via Dolorosa and stopped to wipe the blood and sweat from his brow with her veil. When she did so his image was transferred onto the veil.
The veil was then believed to have mythical powers including heading the Roman Emperor Tiberius. It was said that it could quench thirst, allow the blind to see and even raise people from the dead. The veil then became a venerated symbol of the Church. There is written evidence that the Veil of Victoria was displayed through the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries.
The fate of the veil became shrouded in mystery following the Sack of Rome in 1527. Some writers said that the veil was destroyed. Others say that it continued to be a presence in the Vatican and a witness to the sacking recounted that the veil was not found. Still another account tells that the veil was stolen and made its way through the taverns of Rome.
The mystery over whether or not the veil survived led to numerous people making replicas and copies which were passed around. In 1616, Pope Paul V prohibited the creation of copies of the veil, and in 1629 Pope Urban VIII ordered that all copies of the veil be destroyed. Anyone who refused to have their copy brought to the church to be destroyed faced excommunication. The fate of the veil has not been mentioned since.
Few religious relics are as recognizable or as idolized as the Holy Grail. The cup is believed to have untold power and be the cup that caught the blood of Christ at the crucifixion. The Holy Grail was also the cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper and as such there are few religious artifacts with as much history to them. But there is no evidence the cup really existed.
The Holy Grail first started to be mentioned around the 12th century when it was presented as a divine object in “Perceval.” The poem “Joseph d’Arimathie” by Robert de Boron spoke of the grail being at the Last Supper and the death of Christ, which only added to the religious significance of the cup. After the cup grew in prominence, Knights such as Sir Galahad in the 13th century would set off in search of the relic. It was believed that anyone with a charitable spirit could set off in search of the Grail and have a chance at finding it.
There is no solid evidence that the grail was ever held in anyone’s possession. There are only written literary accounts of the grail and depictions of the grail in paintings and artwork. The mythology surrounding the grail and whether or not it ever truly existed have led numerous historians on a quest to find it.
There are some who believe the story of the grail emerged from Celtic mythology. Others attribute the grail to the sacrament of the Eucharist the medieval period believing that the story of the Grail might have been an attempt to renew the traditional sacrament. The story of the grail continues to be retold to this day and there are many who believe that the grail existed and is out there somewhere.