Although a majority have been lost to history, some of the earliest relics of the Church still survive to this day. Those associated with Jesus Christ Himself have been the most studied and fascinating of them all.
The Holy Sponge
The Holy Sponge is an Instrument of the Passion, dipped in wine and offered to Christ to drink during his Crucifixion.
“There was a vessel filled with common wine. So they put a sponge soaked in wine on a sprig of hyssop and put it up to his mouth.” – John 19:29
Tradition holds when Saint Helen of Constantinople came to Jerusalem looking for relics of Jesus, she found the Holy Sponge at Golgotha. Later, Saint Gregory of Tours and Sophronius of Jerusalem both attest they were an object of veneration in Jerusalem, the latter writing around 600 A.D. that it was venerated in the Upper Room of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
“and go up, my heart overcome with awe, and see the Upper Room, the Reed, the Sponge, and the Lance.”
From there, the Holy Sponge traveled to Constantinople during the Persian invasion of Jerusalem. In Constantinople, Louis IX of France purchased the Holy Sponge, taking it back to be housed in the Sainte-Chapelle. During the ravaging of the French Revolution, the Holy Sponge was dispersed in pieces, some ending up in the Notre-Dame or Bibliothèque Nationale.
Today, a fragment of the Holy Sponge is kept housed in the Archbasilica of Saint John in the Lateran, stained brown from blood. Other fragments are kept housed at the Santa Maria Maggiore, Santa Maria in Trastevere, and Santa Maria in Campitelli in Rome.