Saint Paul Relics Chapel
One of the largest holdings in the United States, the Relic Collection of the Diocese of Covington is comprised of over 350 relics. With numerous relics authenticated by Covington’s first Bishop, George Aloysius Carrell, S.J., it was Covington’s third Bishop, Camillus Paul Maes, who documented the first relic inventory, obtained relics from Europe, and instituted relic devotion in the life of the growing Church in Northern Kentucky. Authenticating many of the relics himself over the course of two decades, Bishop Maes assembled some of the finest and most beautiful relics from the 19th century.
The Relic Shrine of St. Paul, located beneath the baldachin of St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, displays a large selection of relics from the Diocesan collection. Principal relics in the collection include two skull relics taken from the 11,000 companion martyrs of St. Ursula, donated by the shrine in Cologne, Germany, and two arm-shaped reliquaries that contain the ulna and radius bones of St. Arnold of Arnoldsweiler and the carpal bone of St. Paul. These principal relics were obtained by Bishop Maes.
In the 1950s, Bishop William T. Mulloy, Covington’s sixth Bishop, would expand the relic collection further, obtaining dozens more from Rome, Italy. Many of the relics encased in small thecas (cases) on view in the St. Paul Relic Shrine came from Covington’s former St. Pius X Seminary. In addition to the relics on view, the Diocese possesses several lipsanothecae (relic boxes) of first and second class relics from the time of Bishop Maes. Sealed in paper, each relic will eventually be sealed in new thecas for display and veneration.
In 2018, under the leadership and vision of Bishop Roger J. Foys, the tenth Bishop of Covington, plans were made for a new altar that would display the vast collection of relics belonging to the Diocese of Covington. Over the course of three years, designs and plans were made and further refined. The altar was dedicated and consecrated by Bishop Foys on 23 August 2021, the Feast of Rose of Lima.
Made of white oak with gilded details to match the Cathedral Basilica’s interior wood appointments installed by Bishop Mulloy, the altar, reredos (cases), and predella (step) reflect a neo-Gothic style that blends with the Cathedral Basilica’s interior schema. During the altar’s consecration, a first class relic of St. Paul was sealed in the altar stone within the altar’s mensa (top).
Bishop John C. Iffert, the eleventh Bishop of Covington, has continued the legacy of his episcopal predecessors with his commitment to the Church tradition of devotion to sacred relics. The relic collection contains some of the Church’s newest saints and blesseds, including: Pope St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Bl. Solanus Casey, Bl. Stanley Rother, Bl. Miguel Pro, Bl. Carlo Acutis, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Damien of Molokai, Bl. Franz Jägerstätter, St. Oscar Romero, St. José Luis Sánchez del Río, Bl. Karl of Austria, St. Conrad of Parzham, and St. Charbel Makhlouf.