Christianity Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

According to wiki 

Roman Catholic tradition holds that the head on display in San Silvestro in Capite in Rome is that of John the Baptist, discovered for the second time, as also maintained by Pope Benedict XVI in August 2012.

What the Pope said:

The pope also spoke about a fragmented piece of St. John's head that is kept as a relic in the Church of Saint Sylvester in Rome.

“In the Roman Martyrology, reference is made to a second finding of the precious relic, transported, on this occasion, in the church of San Silvestro in Rome. These little historical references help us to understand how how and deeply St. John the Baptist is venerated.”

There is also some similar Islamic tradition about this relic mentioned there.

My question is what did Martin Luther think about the 'preserved head' and other equally impressive holy relics?

share|improve this question
Hope you don't mind the edit, I had to Google that, I read vatican news, National Catholic Register etc... and never heard them talk about this extremely recent event mentioned in that wiki article. – Peter Turner Sep 5 '12 at 4:00
@PeterTurner - Thank you that's very helpful in making the question better. – Mike Sep 5 '12 at 4:29
@Mike: Out of curiosity: what's triggering this deep analysis of Luther's views? – unregistered-matthew7.7 Sep 8 '12 at 3:02
@unregistered-matthew7.7 - Just something all the reformers had published a lot of material on but I have never read, now I am running out of subjects to read so am kicking the can around a bit. Luther seems the best on the topic and I am fascinated with everything about Luther. The more I read the more I want to read about him. – Mike Sep 8 '12 at 3:26
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Luther clearly thought all relics were ridiculous nonsense and evidences of a very degraded sense of spiriituality.

 “It is claimed that the head of St. John the Baptist is in Rome, although all histories show that the Saracens opened John’s grave and burned everything to powder. Yet the pope is not ashamed of his lies. So with reference to other relics like the nails and the wood of the cross—they are the greatest lies.” (Martin Luther's Works, Vol 54.131)

Furthermore, at the time of Luther, the superstition surrounding relics seems to have really been highly imaginative that only an unspiritual mind could ever conjure:

“Certain men have impudently boasted that they possess a feather from the holy angel St. Michael. The bishop of Mainz claims to have a flame from the bush of Moses. So in Compostella the banner is exhibited that Christ had in hell, and likewise the crown of thorns, the nails, etc., and also some of Mary’s milk.” (Martin Luther's Works, Vol 54.247) 

share|improve this answer
Interesting - I didn't know those Luther quotes. I do think that "only an unspiritual mind could ever conjure" is not giving enough credit to the creativeness of some "spiritual minds" - as evidenced in your own question/answer by the Pope. Indeed, it would be harsh to suggest that the "bishop of Mainz" is unspiritual. – Marc Gravell Sep 5 '12 at 6:40
Are the feather and the milk still around? or the banner? – david brainerd May 10 '14 at 3:36

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.