The Largest Collection Of Christian Holy Relics Outside The Vatican Is Located In?
Just north of downtown Pittsburgh, in the working-class neighborhood of Troy Hill, there is an equally unassuming, but solidly built, stone church — St. Anthony’s. Venture inside, however, and you’ll find something more than unexpected.
St. Anthony’s houses the largest collection of Christian relics outside of the Vatican. The collection is comprised of around 5,000 relics, the majority of which are classified as first and second class relics (meaning they are vetted for, considered authentic by the Catholic church, and are either original relics or immediately related to the original relic). The collection includes everything from holy cloth to the entire skeleton of St. Demetrius.
How exactly did a small church in north Pittsburgh end up housing the largest collection of relics outside of the Vatican? The citizens of Pittsburgh have Father Suitbert Mollinger to thank for the hidden gem in their backyard. During the mid-to-late 19th century, the Father used his wealth to hoard relics. During the 1870s especially (thanks to various instabilities in Europe), his agents were able to collect hundreds upon hundreds of relics and ship them back to him in the United States. In 1880 he built St. Anthony’s as a home base for his rapidly growing collection of relics and then expanded it in 1892 to house even more.
Today the church is relatively unknown, however, and even many Catholics living right in Pittsburgh are unaware that they don’t have to travel all the way to Europe to see a world class relic collection.