Show Summary Details

Page of

 Printed from Grove Art Online. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 23 August 2019


  • Kinga Szczepkowska-Naliwajek,
  • John N. Lupia
  •  and Helen Loveday


Receptacle for the preservation of relics, principally the physical remains (Lat. reliquiae) of a holy person or an object of particular veneration. The practice is most prevalent in Christianity (see Cult of relics) (although it has been rejected by Protestant denominations) and Buddhism (see §II below).

Kinga Szczepkowska-Naliwajek

The belief that the destiny of the world and the existence of humanity were in the hands of God and depended on the protection and intercession of the Virgin and the saints was responsible for the development of the cult of saints and their relics. This practice of relic veneration was first documented in the second half of the 2nd century AD and its sources can be traced to Late Antiquity. In the 4th century a number of relics were miraculously discovered, the most precious of which were those that recalled the life, passion, and death of Christ. From this time, the cult and the exaltation of relics in Christian culture became important, in that they became indispensable in the rites and liturgy of the Church. At the outset the Eucharist took place before an altar placed directly over the tombs of the martyrs or an altar under which were buried relics placed in special receptacles known as reliquaries. Later, the relics in their reliquaries were set directly on the altar. Until the 9th century the Western Church rarely allowed the tombs of martyrs to be opened in order to extract the ...

Access to the complete content on Grove Art Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.