The Basilica of San Domenico

The reliquary niche

Along the right side of the nave, in a niche inserted into the wall, are some relics of Saint Catherine.

The term relic (from the Latin reliquus = remained) means what is left of the body of persons who have been recognized as possessing extraordinary virtues of holiness. Over time the term has been extended also to the clothing and objects that came into direct contact with Saints.

The veneration of relics emerged as a practice from the earliest times of Christianity and takes its origin from the fact that God became man, leaving concrete traces of His life on earth. This practice was extended later to the relics of Saints, considered ‘other Christs’ whose remains were preserved. The golden age for the veneration of relics was the Middle Ages: the presence of relics meant, for the town or shrine that possessed them, prestige and protection, besides making them important pilgrimage sites.

The niche holds Catherine’s thumb, preserved inside a crystal and silver reliquary. For the festivities in honor of the Saint which are celebrated every year, the reliquary is carried into Piazza del Campo and used to bless Italy and Europe, of which Catherine is Patron Saint.

The niche also contains some objects which came into contact with the Saint: the chalice with which she received the Eucharist from Jesus, the ropes she used to discipline herself three times a day, and the . . .