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1793 Documented reliquary with relics of St. Stephen, the Protomartyr

Oval silver glass-fronted reliquary theca housing precious first-class relics of Saint Stephen, the Protomartyr. A substantial relic is affixed to a gilt paper starburst on red silk background decorated with silver wire ornamentation. The precious relic is identified on a fancy manuscript paper cedula label as S. Stephani Prot. (St. Stephen the Protomartyr). On the back, under a protective cap, the theca is secured with a prefectly-preserved seal of red Spanish wax bearing an imprint of a coat of arms of Fr. Francesco Saverio Cristiani O.E.S.A. († 1800), Titular Bishop of Porphyreon in a capacity of the Vicar General of the Roman Curia during the pontificate of Pope Pius VI (p. 1775-1799). The relic is accompanied by an original matching authentics document issued and signed by Fr. Cristiani in 1793.

Translation of the authentics document:

Francesco Saverio Cristiani, Eremitic Order of St. Augustine / Bishop of Porphyreon

Prefect of the Apostolic Shrine / Domestic Prelate and Assistant to the Papal Throne

To each and all about to inspect our letter at hand, we pledge faith and attest that we have given as a gift a piece of the bones of St. Stephen Protomartyr, extracted from authentic places and fixed in a silver theca shaped like an oval, sealed shut with glass, tied with a ribbon of red silk.

We have given [this letter] over to be secured with our small seal to the same entity as the aforementioned Sacred Relic, and we have granted it this entity to keep it to itself, to give to others, to display in whatever church, oratory, or chapel it might wish for the public veneration of the Faithful, and to arrange the opportunity for it to have power in the Lord. In trust of these conditions, we have entrusted this letter of testimony written in our own hand and authenticated with our seal to be arranged through our Secretary. Dated at Rome 11 July 1793.

Saint Stephen (†c.34), venerated as the protomartyr or first martyr of Christianity was, according to the Acts of the Apostles, a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy at his trial, he made a speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him and was then stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who would later become a follower of Jesus and known as Paul the Apostle. The Catholic, Anglican, Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox Churches, and the Church of the East venerate Stephen as a saint. The relics of the protomartyr were later translated to Rome by Pope Pelagius II during the construction of the basilica of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura. They were interred alongside the relics of Saint Lawrence, whose tomb is enshrined within the church. According to the Golden Legend, the relics of Lawrence moved miraculously to one side to make room for those of Stephen. Saint Stephen's feast day is celebrated by the Western Church on the 26th of December and on the 27th of December by the Eastern Church. He is considered to be a patron of altar servers; casket makers; deacons; headaches; horses; masons.

Additional Info

  • ID#: 209-RSCR-1
  • Size: 37 x 39 mm
  • Age: ca. 1793 dated
  • Origin: Vatican
  • Materials: silver, glass
  • Price: (RESERVED)
  • Silver
  • Orthodox Cross

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