It should be of no surprise that the world’s largest collection of relics is at the Vatican. But it might come as a bit of a shock that the world’s second largest collection of relics open to the public is in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Not Florence, Paris, or London. But in the United States, in the middle of old “Steel City.”
Yes, behold the mighty church that has more relics than all the old cathedrals of Europe:
Called St. Anthony Chapel, it was built in 1880 for the purpose of housing the vast collection of relics amassed by Fr. Suitbert Mollinger, pastor of the local Holy Name of Jesus parish. Unable to convince his parishioners to help build it, he ended up paying for the whole thing with his inheritance from his family.
It has over 5,000 relics held in over 800 reliquaries of various sizes. It has part of the True Cross, a thorn from the Crown of Thorns, and a piece of rock from the Holy Sepulchre. The rest of the collection is made up of relics from saints that span the centuries, such as St. John the Baptist (1st century), St. Agnes (3rd century), St. Anthony of Padua (13th century), and St. Philip Neri (16th century).
How did the priest get a hold of so many incredible relics, you ask? Fr. Mollinger regularly visited Europe in order to rescue relics, a large number of which were floating around Europe at the time due to political upheavals in Germany and Italy. He was motivated to amass the collection by a deep faith in God’s power to heal people of physical ailments, and relics were seen as a possible conduit of God’s grace.
Below is a photographic tour of the chapel and some of its relics. You can click on any image to see it full size.