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As the story goes, a priest assigned to a poor parish in a poverty stricken mountain community of northern Italy was approached by the town council. The council wanted to improve the lives of the population by bringing in tourist dollars. However, the town had nothing to attract outsiders to the community for a visit. They thought that, perhaps, the good father could obtain the relics of a major saint to place in the church that would bring visitors who would spend their money in local restaurants and hotels.

The priest agreed to give it a try and set off for Rome. After days of visiting church after church he was approached by a rather swarthy looking character who ask the father if he was searching for relics.

The priest responded, "Yes, my son, I am looking for the relics of an important saint to take back to my village but have found nothing. Tonight I must return home empty handed."

"Father, this is your lucky day!" responded the man. "It just so happens that I have recently acquired the head of Saint John the Baptist and for a moderate sum, to cover my expenses, the head is yours."

"But my good man, isn't the head of John the Baptist held at the church of San Silvestro here in Rome?" inquired the priest.

"Ah, yes, Father, but the head in San Silvestro is the head of St. John as an adult. I happen to have the head of St. John as a child."

Detecting Possible Fake Relics

While most fraudulent relics are not as obvious to spot as in the above story, there are a few clues to guide the relic purchaser that will help prevent being sold a counterfeit.

This ministry does not claim to be an expert on relics and most of what is included here has been learned the hard way. However, we do have consultants in the United States and Europe who know relics and are experts in this field. We do NOT list a relic as a fake unless our expert correspondents concur.

Modern counterfeitors are becoming increasingly sophisticated in producing fake relics. The advent of the modern computer and printers has made the work of the deceiver much easier. However, with a bit of homework most of these fake relics can be detected.

Here are a few clues:

  • Purchase your relic only from a reputable dealer who specializes in relics or church antiquities. Even here one must be careful as professionals can be duped.

  • Never purchase a relic that is not accompanied by an authentication document.

  • Examine the document and compare it with the relic. Is the impression on the wax seal on the back of the relic the same as that which appears on the document? Does the apparent age of the relic theca compare favorably with the date shown on the document? New thecas accompanied by old documents are highly suspect.

  • Investigate the name of the person appearing on the document. The Internet has made this quite easy. If the name of the person who prepared the relic belongs to a particular order of clergy, it is highly unlikely he would be providing relics of saints that were not members of his order.

  • If the relic was prepared by a local bishop or even the Vicarate of Rome, check the preparer out. If the preparer was the vicar general or chancellor only during a certain time frame, any relics outside of that era are fraudulent. A comprehensive list of all cardinals and their biographies are available on the Internet and most diocese throughout the world have websites. Through these sites one can contact someone who can verify that the person named on the documet actually exisited and the years he was in office.

  • If you still have doubts, do not puchase. It is better to be safe than sorry.

    We continue to evaluate relics on an individual basis as we have done in the past. All the buyers need do is send us the eBay item number and Guido will evaluate it and you should have a reply within 24 hours. If you have other relics that you wish for us to check, just send us clear images of the theca, wax seal and document.

    We will also continue to update our Detecting Fake Relics pages to reflect new information and to assist our friends to make wise choices.