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Top Ten Relics from Different Religions

Source: Time Magazine, Apr. 19, 2010

Shroud of Turin

Be it fact or fake, the Shroud of Turin, a yellowed, 14-ft.-long (4.3 m) linen some believe to be Christ's burial cloth, has drawn millions to the Italian city. While the Shroud bears an image of a crucified man with wounds similar to those endured by Jesus, carbon-dating tests in 1988 showed the cloth was made between 1260 and 1390 and therefore could not have been used to wrap Christ's body. Still, the test results have not stopped pilgrims from flocking to take their 3-to-5-minute looks at the shroud this month in its first public viewing since 2000. Some say the tests may have been skewed and should be redone.

Blood of San Gennaro

Each year the people of Naples, Italy, gather on the anniversary of the martyrdom of their patron saint, San Gennaro, to watch a miracle: the liquifying of the saint's dried blood. The miracle occurs like clockwork on Sept. 19, and as many as 18 additional times a year. The fact that the phenomenon has been questioned by scientists has never stopped the celebration. Many believe the so-called miracle of the blood serves to protect the town from harm (such as from the nearby Mount Vesuvius). That belief has been partially legitimized in years when the blood failed to liquefy and bad things happened — witness 1527's plague, an earthquake in 1980 and even the defeat of the Napoli football (soccer) club.

Muhammad's Beard

Said to have been shaved from Muhammad's face by his favorite barber postmortem, the Prophet's beard is on view today in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. Though relics have no official sanction in Islam, and the Prophet himself preached against worshipping anyone other than God, many visit the museum's extensive collection of items — including footprints of the Prophet and other items associated with Muhammad — each year.

Mary's Holy Belt

Mary allegedly handed her hand-woven, camel-hair belt to Thomas the Apostle just before she ascended to heaven. When the belt found its way to Prato, Italy in the 14th century, a special chapel was erected to house it. Today, the belt, called Sacra Cintola, is revered as a relic of the Virgin Mary and is displayed five times a year (Christmas, Easter, May 1, Aug. 15, and on Mary's birthday, Sept. 8).

John the Baptist's Head

The final resting place of John the Baptist's head varies widely depending on which religion you subscribe to. Muslims believe his head lies inside the Umayyad Mosque (left) in Damascus, Syria, while Christians believe that a head on display at Rome's Church of San Silvestro in Capite is that of John the Baptist. Still others believe it is buried in Turkey or even southern France.

Buddha's Tooth

According to Sri Lankan legend, a single tooth remained following Buddha's cremation. His left canine came to be an important possession as it was thought that whoever had the tooth had the divine right to rule. Unsurprisingly the tooth was fought over many times, but today it enjoys a peaceful setting in the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

The Tunic of the Blessed Virgin

While France's Chartres Cathedral is one of the nation's finest examples of gothic architecture, that isn't the only reason pilgrims flock there each year. The cathedral is also home to a tunic said to have been worn by the Virgin Mary during the birth of Christ. The tunic, or Sancta Camisia, said to have been given to the church in 876, was thought to have been destroyed in a fire in 1194. Three days later it was found miraculously unharmed in the treasury, which the bishop claimed was a sign from Mary herself that another, more magnificent, cathedral should be built in its place.

The Grapevine Cross

Legend has it that St. Nino, a Cappadocian woman who preached Christianity in Georgia in the 4th century, was said to have been given the Grapevine Cross — a cross with peculiar drooping arms — by the Virgin Mary herself. Like its original bearer, the cross, now a major symbol of the Georgian Orthodox Church, wandered several countries before finding its home in the Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi, Georgia, where it is now displayed.

Footprint of the Prophet Muhammad

Some Muslims believe that wherever the Prophet Muhammad roamed, his left foot made a lasting impression. Such footprints have been recovered from religious sites throughout the Middle East and are now on display at mosques, museums and other historical sites throughout the region. One such print found its way to the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, where it is displayed today.

The Chains of St. Peter

The Apostle Peter was jailed in Jerusalem, shackled in an iron chain for preaching about Jesus. The night before his trial, St. Peter was said to have been released from the chain by an angel and led out of the prison. Today, the chain is housed in a reliquary under the main altar in the San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) basilica in Rome. Legend says that when the Empress Eudoxia gave the chain to Pope Leo I, he held them next to the chains from Peter's first imprisonment in the Mamertime Prison in Rome and the two chains miraculously fused together.

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