Relics, scanned and put online in 3D

Relics, scanned and put online in 3D

Seton Hall University and a number of other Catholic colleges have a new project which will put images of Catholic relics online for preservation, study, and public viewing. (Actually, what the article says is that they will “convert Catholic relics into a digital format”. You can’t “convert” a relic into a digital format, since it is a physical object. It’s like saying you’re going to “convert” your child into a digital format, when what you mean is that you’re going to take a photo.)

Anyway, this seems like an interesting and timely project, especially as (1) fewer and fewer relics are being used in churches because of the change of liturgical laws and (2) private interest is growing in the use of relics as devotionals. We actually possess three relics here in our house: Mother Teresa, St. Faustina, and Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati.

It’s part of the Catholic Research Portal, which is also part of something called Digital Institutional Repositories. Unfortunately, the article isn’t written very well and the different collections and their relation to one another become confusing. They also don’t provide a link to the portal or collections, if they have one yet.

The uploaded versions of the relics or artifacts are much more than just still images or document files. They will be able to be studied in full 3D, rotated and zoomed in and out.

“A photo of a chalice, for example, can be viewed, rotated, and zoomed in and zoomed out, to study the artifact,” according to a university press release.

The process is not limited to relics and artifacts. It also involves the digitization of text documents such as the Chesterton Review, which is currently available on the university libraries Web site.

Hmmm, now I wonder whether they mean relics in the sense of devotional objects related to saints or in the more general sense of old objects.

Anyway, this is the sort of thing for which I’ve long said the Internet will be most valuable. It shouldn’t be long before everyone in the world, not just researchers with travel budgets and access, can view and study our most treasured artifacts. It’s already showing promise in some of the materials from the Vatican Library that has been put online. Never before in history have so many had so much access to so much knowledge and just plain rare objects of our share cultural heritage.

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  • Speaking of relics, does anyone know how to obtain a first-class relic for private devotion in the home? I’m serious about this. Obviously this kind of availability can cause harm if relics get into the wrong hands. But I imagine there must be some process that allows this for serious and pious lay people. Those of us who try hard to create a ‘domestic church’ want to know!

  • If the saint is relatively recently canonized, you could probably contact whatever organization they were connected to, whether a religious order, or in the case of lay people, the group that promoted the cause for canonization. That’s how I got mine, although I never asked for them. They were all came to us unsought-for.

    You might also try contacting the diocesan archives office. I know in Boston they have many relics removed from churches preserved there. I don’t know if they will give them out, but it won’t hurt to ask.

    However, first-class relics are relatively rare. You might have better luck with second-class.