Sunday, June 26, 2005

A Human Skull

That's what I got to see yesterday at the Cathedral. Betsy and I went to Cleveland for Confession and Mass; we were there very early and so after Confession we spent time praying and reciting the Rosary, etc. We were sitting there in the pew - the Cathedral was rather dimly lit, as it was still quite a while before Mass and the acolytes had not even been out to light the candles, let alone the lamps - and this fellow, a sort of janitor person who was going over the marble floors with a mop, came up and introduced himself. He was a foreigner (from the Dominican Republic) and he wanted to know if we were nuns. Ha! See, I already look like a nun ;) Although obviously he assumed we were of the non-habited variety.

Anyway, he was very friendly. He asked us questions about where we were from and what orders we were interested in. And he also said, "Come with me! I'll show you where we keep the relics of St. Christina and the bodies of our bishops." Then he led us around the Cathedral, unlocked the gates of the Cathedral crypt, and took us in. He must have been in some kind of official position, I guess, if he was given the keys to the crypt!

When we went into the crypt, we saw where some of the bishops of the diocese are buried (they are entombed in marble, mausoleum-type graves). The crypt bears the coat of arms of the late James Cardinal Hickey, who was bishop of Cleveland for a few years and was later made the Cardinal Achbishop of Washington, D.C. by John Paul. (He died earlier this year.)

Our guide also took us into the crypt chapel - the Resurrection chapel - where we saw the bones and skull of St. Christina, who was martyred in Rome in the 3rd century. The bones were arranged with her skull on top of them in a glass case beneath the altar. They were a gift from Pope Pius XI in 1928, who was friends with the then-bishop of Cleveland. You can read about St. Christina here.

I know non-Catholics think the whole relics thing is a bit creepy, but I think it's cool. It's a tradition that's 2,000 years old. The people who are freaked out are, historically speaking, the weird ones :)

So that was pretty special! As far as I know, the crypt is otherwise very carefully kept locked up, besides when the bishop or a priest or someone official wants to go in. See, it pays to go to Church early, he he he.

Here are some pictures I got off of the diocesan website. This is the Cathedral:

Image hosted by

And here is a picture of the Resurrection Chapel. If you look at the altar, you can see Christina's relics - the skull and bones.

Image hosted by

And here is St. Christina, close up:

Image hosted by

It was very moving and awe-inspiring to actually be there, in front of the relics of a martyr who lived and died almost two thousand years ago.


  1. Wow, that's REALLY interesting! ...And you conveniently FORGOT to tell me about it the two times we "hung out" this weekend... I feel so loved and informed... ;) ;)

  2. :scary voice: I see dead people...

    ...And I need to grow up/eat less sugar in the morning that gives me a noon sugar buzz... Never a good thing... perhaps a cold shower will fix this?