I was wondering if the Council of Trent laid out the rubrics for encasing 1st class relics? The info is important to because I have a very old locket with possible relics and the remnants of a wax seal, but I've been advised the locket would not have been an approved container for it.

Are there any specific rules regarding the type of enclosure that is needed for housing relics? If so, has that changed through the years? I've looked extensively but haven't been able to find many details about it. Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Edit to add pictures of the locket.

locket front locket back

Adding the group of relics(?) that were fused on top of the Jesuit prayer. It appears to have the remnants of a wax seal in each of the corners.


Close up of the seal remnants in the top right corner.

wax seal

  • There is a rather outdated book entitled: "Liturgical Matters" and it should have the information you are looking for. It is rather hard to find a copy nowadays!
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 22:34
  • @KenGraham Bits of it appear to be available on the internet. I found a link to an article on the treatment of relics, but not one with specifications on reliquaries. Commented Dec 12, 2016 at 23:16
  • cf. the 25th session of the Council of Trent
    – Geremia
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 22:53

1 Answer 1


Council of Trent and rubrics

A word search of the English version of the Proceedings of the Council of Trent did not, when the term relic shows up, address that detail. There may have been other supplemental guidance offered under various papal bulls or decrees, but in the Council of Trent's issued declarations that detail is not found.

The prose declarations made on pages 233-237 address the veneration of saints and various prohibitions in unverified new relics, or unseemly depictions of saints, but not a rubric on how a relic is to be packaged. The Council did rule that relics required review and authentication by the episcopal authority in order to be permitted for public veneration.

While another council may have included such rubrics on reliquaries, the Council of Trent appears not to have done so.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on reliquaries:

Lastly it will be sufficient to point out that relics have at all times been kept in simple caskets or boxes, varying indefinitely in size, material, and ornamentation. In more modern times these are invariably secured by a seal, and the contents indicated in a formal episcopal act of authentication, without which it is not Lawful to expose the relics for public veneration. The silver box containing the head of St. Agnes, recently brought to light in the treasury of the Sancta Sanctorum, still preserved the seal of some cardinal deacon affixed to it apparently at the end of the thirteenth century.

Of the various documents available regarding relics and reliquaries, the consistent requirement is that any relic (to be a relic as opposed to something else) must be accompanied by an episcopal documentation of authenticity. While that isn't a matter of "packaging" or handling, it looks like a hard requirement.

The Collectio Rerum Liturgicarum of Rev. Joseph Wuest, C.SS.R., Latin - 1889
Matters Liturgical by Rev. Thomas Mullaney, C.SS.R., English translation - 1925

  1. Authenticity of Relics. Only those relics can be honored with a public cult in churches, even though exempt, which are certified as genuine in an authentic document of a Cardinal, a local Ordinary, or an ecclesiastic to whom the faculty of authenticating relics has been granted by apostolic indult (c. 1283, 1).

    b) Without a special mandate a Vicar General cannot authenticate a relic, even if there is merely question of authenticating a relic taken from a relic already duly authenticated, or of issuing a new certificate of authenticity, or of placing a seal upon an authenticated relic (c. 1283, 2; CODE COMM.: JULY 17, 1933).

    c) Local Ordinaries shall prudently withdraw from public veneration any relic which they know is certainly not authentic (c. 1284).

    d) If the documents of their authenticity have been lost as a result of civil disturbance or some other mishap, sacred relics shall not be exposed for public veneration without the express approval of the local Ordinary; this approval cannot be given by the Vicar General without a special mandate (c. 1285, 1).

    e) What is stated above (d), does not apply to ancient relics. These shall be venerated in the same way as heretofore, unless for reasons that are certain it is evident that the relics are false or supposititious (c. 1285,2).

About Lockets

You will find on pages 18 and 19 of this document a description of "The Authentic" and some of the details of authentication to include the affixing of seals and the use of crossed threads.

Underneath the back cover of the relic locket there is a seal of red wax. The relic secured in place in the locket by threads that cross over it. The threads are inserted through the walls of the locket on the opposing sides and it is sealed shut with a wax seal bearing the insignia of issuing religious authority and there order's initials. This seal and its locking procedure (threads and seal) should never be broken or cut. It protects the integrity and validity of the authentication.

Source/caveat: Public Veneration and Exhibit Manual; 2000; Thomas J Serafin; (ICHRusa). That makes this a contemporary source.

  • Thanks Korvin.. I could see how crossed threads may have been used to seal the locket at one time.. but were probably lost long ago. The back of the locket has folded edges.. so I always thought they may have been used for the front of the locket to tuck under the edges but it was not a close fit... so that would make sense now, if they were used for the crossed threads to hold everything together. I'll try to add a couple pictures to help with what I'm describing.
    – Naeco
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 0:36
  • @user32398 Are you concerned with the relic's authenticity? I am not sure if what you have is a first class relic, though it may be a second class relic. How old is it, as far as you can tell? I suspect that if you get in touch with your local ordinary (bishop) they can provide some local leads/expert assessment of that particular item. Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 3:10
  • Yes, I'm very interested in settling the relics authenticity. The history of the item is very important to me. I've tried a few avenues within the church but they haven't developed. The information about the Vicar General was helpful and I'll see if the local Bishop would be able to assist. The relics are folded into the center of the wood cut images above and fused into a Jesuit parchment that was from the late 16th century to the est of my knowledge. I'll see if I can find a suitable picture to post. Thanks again for all your help.
    – Naeco
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 9:34

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