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I'm afraid that I am entering this discussion a bit late (I've been away
from the computer for a while), but since my doctoral dissertation is on the
topic of church dedications as an issue in medieval canon law, I have a few
cents to put in here.


At 05:05 PM 11/3/96 -0500, John Parsons wrote:
>
>My understanding had been that there was never any inflexible requirement
>that the relics imbedded in the altar table HAD to be associated with the
>saint/s to whom the church was dedicated.  As the supply of authenticable 
>relics was naturally limited anything would do, secondary as well as primary, 
>and often a tiny speck sufficed.  I can't remember references offhand but
>will check.
>

John is quite right in his understanding: a quick glance through the records
of church dedications in the Monumenta Germaniae historiae will show that
even smaller churches had a large number of relics in their altar/altars.
(A point worth noting: many, if not most, churches had more than one altar,
each of which had its own relics.)  Also, altars added after the original
church was built do not necessarily contain the relics of the church's
patron(s).

On more general legal points: the practice of using relics to dedicate a
church appears to have begun in Late Antiquity, and it appears to have been
considered the norm, even legally mandated, though the Middle Ages (and also
unto today).  The relics were central to the holiness of the church: altars
without relics were supposed to be destroyed, and if a bishop wished to
close a church for whatever reason (interdiction, settling a property
dispute), several canons instruct him to remove the relics from the altar
before locking and sealing the doors.  For further information, I would
heartily recommend the excellent study by Nicole Hermann-Mascard,
_Les_reliques_des_saints:_formation_coutumiere_d'un_
_droit_ (Paris: Klincksiek, 1975).  

Hope this all is helpful.

Stephen A. Allen
The Medieval Institute
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556

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