Of all the saints in Christendom, the only pair of whom we possess no first-class relics are the Blessed Virgin Mary and St Joseph. We attribute this lack of bodily relics to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven body and soul which is one of the great Marian Dogmas of the Church. This tradition has been popularly believed from the earliest days of the Church but not officially defined as dogma until November 1, 1950 by Venerable Pope Pius XII. (MUNIFICENTISSIMUS DEUS.)

The same reasoning is applied to lack of bodily relics of St Joseph, Virgin-Father of Christ and Chaste Spouse of Mary.  Many saints piously believe in the bodily assumption of St Joseph into Heaven - just as Our Lord had done for His holy Mother.

(Click HERE for more on the Assumption of St Joseph) What we do have are second class relics of St Joseph, some of which we have listed below.

This quartz ring (the Santo Anello) is said to have served as the wedding ring given by Good St Joseph to the Blessed Virgin Mary.   According to an 11th century account, a Jewish dealer in precious stones in Rome gave it to a jeweler from Chiusi called Ainerio in the late 10th century.  He doubted its authenticity until his newly deceased young son was temporarily restored to life in order to vouch for it.  It was then transferred to the Basilica di Santa Mustiola, outside the walls of Chiusi.  In 1251, it was moved for greater security to the Duomo of Chiusi, which was administered by the canons of Santa Mustiola.  It was moved again, this time to San Francesco, Chiusi in 1420.


Theft of the Relic

An inscription in the cloister of the Palazzo delle Canoniche records that a certain Fra Wintherius (Winterio) brought the ring to Perugia in 1473 and arranged through an intermediary to donate it to the city.  He was imprisoned for two years while charges against him were investigated, but was then released and settled in Perugia.  (He served as rector of San Giovanni del Mercato (now the Cappella di San Giovanni Battista of the Collegio di Cambio) until his death in 1506.  He was buried in the Cappella del Santo Anello in the Duomo.


What the inscription does not say is that Fra Wintherius had stolen the relic during his stay in the Franciscan convent at Chiusi.  The Sienese, who controlled Chiusi, appealed to the Pope Sixtus IV, but he arbitrated in favour of the Perugians, and the ring was duly secured in a trunk with seven keys inside a metal grating in Palazzo dei Priori.  Tortuous negotiations continued until 1486, when Pope Innocent VIII ruled in favour of Perugia.


Cult in Perugia

In 1487, the Observant Franciscan Bernardino da Feltre preached in Perugia on the importance of the cult of St Joseph (whose feast had been introduced into the calendar in 1479) and the Santo Anello.  He formed the Compagnia di San Giuseppe, which was mandated to support these cults, and was inscribed as its first member. Fra. Bernardino also obtained permission for what was the Cappella di San Bernardino da Siena to be re-dedicated to St Joseph.  His feast was celebrated in Perugia for the first time on July 31st, 1487.  Bishop Dionisio Vagnucci translated the Santo Anello from Palazzo dei Priori to the new chapel in the Duomo (commonly called the Cappella del Santo Anello) a year later.


The relic is housed in a reliquary (1498-1511) by Federico and Cesarino Roscetto, in which it hangs from a gilded silver crown (1716) that was donated by Ippolito della Corgna.  The reliquary is usually behind curtains above the present altarpiece in this chapel.  However, it is exhibited on the altar each July 31st, the anniversary of its translation to this location.  It is traditionally venerated by pilgrims en route for Santa Maria degli Angeli, Assisi to celebrate the Festa di Perdono there on August 2nd. 


Ceinture de Saint Joseph - St Joseph's Belt

The Cinture of St Joseph

In 1254, one of the great chroniclers of medieval France, Jean de Joinville (France), brought in from Jerusalem the belt of St. Joseph, for which a chapel was built in the Church of Notre-Dame de Joinville-sur-Marne. A part of the relic was donated in 1649 to the church of the Order of the Feuillants in Paris and elsewhere, in 1662, to Bishop F. Vialart, bishop of Chalons-sur-Marne, for its cathedral. The Holy Cinture is roughly one and a half meters long, greyish in color. The ends attach with an ivory clasp – yellowed by time. After St Joseph's entry to the next life, it remained with the Virgin Mary as a memorial of her husband. Today you can still see that noble and most holy belt in a reliquary in the church of Notre-Dame de Joinville. In the 13th century the belt was embroidered with Fleur de Lis emblems and verses from the Litany of St Joseph.

(Left)  Detail of Jean de Joinville carrying the reliquary of the Ceinture de Saint Joseph.

Detail of St Joseph's belt showing the embroidery that was added in the 13th century displaying Fleur de Lis emblems and verses from the Litany of St Joseph.

(Left) Late 19th century medal depicting the Cinture of St Joseph reliquary on one side and a portrait of the Holy Family on the other.


The Staff of St Joseph (encased)

As far as I know, this staff is venerated in the Hermitage of Camaldoli in the mountains of central Italy, close to the city of Arezzo. At this time I am still looking for the history of how it came to rest in Camaldoli.