What to think about the latest “piece of the true cross”

The world is full of supposed pieces of the cross. What should we think about this latest find?

A piece of Jesus’ cross? Relics unearthed in Turkey – NBC News.com.

Turkish archaeologists say they have found a stone chest in a 1,350-year-old church that appears to contain a relic venerated as a piece of Jesus’ cross.

The artifacts were unearthed during a dig at Balatlar Church in Turkey’s Sinop Province, and displayed this week by excavation team leader Gülgün Köroğlu. “We have found a holy thing in a chest. It is a piece of a cross,” the Hurriyet Daily News quoted her as saying.

Köroğlu, an art historian and archaeologist at Turkey’s Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts, said the team suspects that the chest served as a symbolic coffin for the relics of a holy person — and that the fragments within it were associated with Jesus’ crucifixion.

Many churches say they have a piece of the cross but none have been formally authenticated. How can they be authenticated?

I’m pretty certain that the joke about all the remnants of the true cross put together filling a shipload is true. Comments and references welcome on this story from our archaeology-inclined readers.

  10 comments for “What to think about the latest “piece of the true cross”

  1. spookyparadigm
    August 1, 2013 at 8:26 AM

    The idea that it was a shrine to pieces of the cross, or some other holy relic makes sense to this layman to Christian archaeology in the Middle East. But that’s as far as you can go, that it is a shrine to something claimed to be tied to religious writings.

    I’ll just leave this here


  2. August 1, 2013 at 8:28 AM

    A bit on the “enough pieces… to rebuild Noah’s Ark” (which is how I had always heard it), from that most skeptical of sources, the Free Republic: http://freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/2708377/posts I think you’ll enjoy their application of skepticism.

  3. August 1, 2013 at 10:41 AM

    Thirteen hundred years ago the ‘relic’ business was like the ‘celebrity’ game today. It is extremely unlikely that any relic has ever been authentic. They appeared hundreds of years after the event with which they were, supposedly, associated, at a time when the idea of provenance did not exist.

  4. Suzanne de Nimes
    August 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    Mark Twain makes fun of the True Cross and other supposed relics in “An Innocent Abroad” (which is a hugely entertaining read, btw):

    “But isn’t this relic matter a little overdone? We find a piece of the true cross in every old church we go into, and some of the nails that held it together. I would not like to be positive, but I think we have seen as much as a keg of these nails. Then there is the crown of thorns; they have part of one in Sainte Chapelle, in Paris, and part of one also in Notre Dame. And as for bones of St. Denis, I feel certain we have seen enough of them to duplicate him if necessary.”


  5. LREKing
    August 1, 2013 at 11:32 AM

    Exactly what distinguishes a “piece of the true cross” from just a “piece of old wood?”?


  6. August 1, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Actually, a pack of faith.

  7. August 1, 2013 at 11:47 AM

    Lack. I meant lack.

  8. August 1, 2013 at 10:43 PM

    A religious friend once surprised me with his skepticism of relics like this. “There are enough splinters from the True Cross,” he said, “to build a freakin’ ark.” Cracked me up.

  9. August 2, 2013 at 3:53 AM

    How can they be authenticated?
    They can’t.
    It never happened anyway..

  10. Someguy
    August 2, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    Do they count the one Ned Flanders wears around his neck or did the bullet damage knock it out of the running?

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