Fr. Matthew Pittam on Relics

imageWhen have you ever read about the carbon dating of the shroud in which no mention was made about the results?

The University of Oxford is to become a world leading centre into the study of religious relics following the launch of a new department. This ground-breaking centre, based in Keble College’s Advanced Studies Centre, is to be composed of computer and medical scientists as well as historians, classicists and theologians. Such an interdisciplinary approach builds upon work that has been undertaken by the university’s archaeological school since the 1980s.

Past achievements within the university have included the dating of the shroud of Turin, which involved study in three laboratories and the radiocarbon accelerator unit. This new unit is the first time that such a wide-ranging field of experts has been brought together in this way.

Not that there is anything wrong with that; this article is not about the shroud but … As a new centre to study relics opens in Oxford, Fr Matthew Pittam takes a look at some more unusual examples in the Catholic Herald:

  • The head of St Catherine of Siena – San Domenico Basilica Siena, Italy
  • The Holy Prepuce (Christ’s foreskin) – stolen in the 1980s
  • St Antonius’s body – Church of San Marco, Florence, Italy
  • Blessed John Henry Newman – The Oratory of St Philip Neri, Birmingham, UK
  • The hand of St Francis Xavier – Gesu, Rome

Well, I hope Oxford is not planning to test the foreskin.  It has gone missing, since 1983. 

Fr. Pittam concludes his article:

I remember a friend telling me how he had retrieved relics from a presbytery bin when the parish priest had disposed of them in the early 1980s. This just shows how relics have been regarded by many more recently.

Hopefully, the new Oxford Centre for the Study of Relics will help further advance and promote the use of relics in the Church and encourage us to think afresh about their importance. Whilst studies will undoubtedly identify some relics as counterfeit or misidentified, others may be confirmed as originating from the time and place where the holy person lived. It will certainly give the veneration of relics more credibility.

6 thoughts on “Fr. Matthew Pittam on Relics”

  1. Hey Dan, I spotted this the day before yesterday:

    November 21, 2015 at 3:43 pm Reply
    Oxford will stand by the 1988 results, as we have learnt from Professor Christopher Ramsey. It has now opened a centre to study relics and the priest who wrote the report mentioned the Shroud in passing.
    Of the five relics to be studied, one is certainly a fake. I can vouch for one because my paternal uncle, who was the dean of a medical college, examined it and delivered his report to both Church and State and had it published in the journal of an European academy of sciences:

    1. Here two links.

      >The Relics Cluster is a multi-disciplinary
      group of researchers interested in
      applying studies of text, art and science
      to improve our understanding of relics:
      objects of cultural, historical and
      religious significance. …


      >… a new research group based at Keble College’s
      Advanced Studies Centre that brings together
      experts in different fields with an interest in relics.
      >We have historians, archaeologists, classicists
      and theologians, as well as computer and
      medical scientists.
      >This project shows that even the two
      traditionally separate worlds of ‘science’
      and ‘faith’ have the potential to work together.


      I ask:
      Are these gentlemen new possible candidates
      to also examine the Holy Shroud?

      1. Putting aside the strange problem of the foreskin,
        I have previously sent the message,
        because (IMO) there was not a very clear
        statement about the dating of the Holy Shroud…

        See also the words about the ORAU
        (= University of Oxford’s Radiocarbon
        Accelerator Unit) in the School of Archaeology …
        into the article:

        >…ORAU took part in the research project
        that helped date the Turin Shroud, said to be
        the burial cloth of Christ, to between 1260 and 1390. …

  2. Now I here I write something that
    has to do quite poorly with the topic
    to be considered.
    It is the fact that I typed on Google:
    “David Hoffmeister Dan Porter shroud”
    and then I did not find anything …

    See also: David Hoffmeister and the book…
    “Quantum Forgiveness: Physics, Meet Jesus”
    eBook Launch August 30th, 2015
    Print Launch October 1st, 2015

    I just wanted to ask your opinion
    on this new text, but…
    I did not know where
    I could put my request!

    >Quantum Forgiveness combines
    the science of the material universe
    as understood by Quantum Physics,
    forgiveness as taught by Jesus 2,000 years
    ago, and movie-watching as a spiritual
    tool interpreted in a useful way through
    the eyes and clarity of a modern day mystic.
    >David Hoffmeister, a world-renowned
    teacher of A Course in Miracles and
    expert on Mysticism & Spirituality,
    uses seven mind-expanding movies as
    modern-day parables to guide you into
    an experience of Quantum Forgiveness,
    an insightful and original book for
    Awakening to permanent Peace.

    In any case, the fact of being “down-to-earth”
    and to study the relics (before maybe
    fly away with your imagination), I think
    is a good thing …

  3. Here a past work by Mark Van Strydonck
    (and other researchers).


    Then, see also under:

    >Professor Mark Van Strydonck specialises
    in radiocarbon dating and stable isotope research
    (13C/12C and 15N/14N).
    >Since 1978, he has been responsible for
    the radiocarbon dating laboratory at the
    Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA
    for its initials in Dutch and French, respectively),
    an institute committed to the inventory, the
    scientific study, the conservation and the
    promotion of the country’s artistic and
    cultural property. …
    >…Prof. van Strydonck explained that
    Christian relics result from people’s need
    of something material to prove a certain
    person existed and/or was even a hero,
    saint or martyr; while a local saint is
    renowned in a very small geographic
    area (a few parishes) and have a
    significant impact in the local area. …

    >… Prof. van Strydonck has published
    the book “Relieken, echt of vals?”
    (Davidsfonds/Leuven, 2006).

    1. Unfortunately…
      under the address:
      (previously indicated),
      we can read the following words:

      >… Scientific or not-so-scientific debates,
      popularized by the media, of artifacts such
      as the Turin Shroud hardly helped to change
      that perception. Therefore, it is often thought
      that relic shrines contain bones that are much
      younger than the saint they are ascribed to,
      or that they hide a mixed assemblage of
      skeletal elements of very different origin
      and date, not excluding the presence of animal materia…
      — —
      “artifacts such as the Turin Shroud”
      …hmmm… …hmmm, mumble mumble…,
      this word “artifacts” seems to me that is
      impossibile to read it without to show
      a perplexed expression…

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