It is not;
popularly known
but trough the centuries
Kings, Emperors, Popes paid homage 
to one of the
most important
Relics of Christianity

   The Sacred Vessels


Longino the Isaurian (coming from Isauria in Turkey) was the Roman soldier who pierced with a lance the chest of Jesus, dying on the Cross. From his wound spouted blood mixed with water and some drops reached the damaged eyes of Longino which were miraculously healed. This miracle converted the soldier, and he took some earth sodden with the Blood of Jesus. He kept it in a little box with him on his wanderings until he came to Mantua. During his stay in the Hospice of the pilgrims, afraid of losing it, he buried the Relic in a secret place. He was martyred on 2 December 37 a.D. and buried in the Cappadocia Contrada. He was declared a Saint by Pope Innocent VI° on December 2 1340. The Relic was found in 804, thanks to the indications given to a believer by St. Andrew, who showed him the place were it was hidden by Longino. Next to the Relic human bones were found, that could be those of St. Longino. Now they are kept in the third chapel on the right of the Basilica of St. Andrew. Conversion of St. Longino ( fresco Basilica St.Andrea)
discovered and the Relic ( fresco Basilica St.Andrea) The news about the discovery reached even the Emperor Charlemagne, and very impressed by the event, he asked the Pope Leo III to visit Mantua and get more information. 
The Pope, after the investigations, declared the authenticity of the Relic and donated him a little fragment, kept in the Royal Chapel in Paris.
During the invasions of the Hungarian hordes of 923, afraid of a violation, the Holy earth was split in two portions, one kept in the Church of St. Paul next to the Cathedral (now destroyed), the second was also split in two crystal jars, and hidden in the oratory dedicated to the Blood of Jesus. The secret of the hiding place was discovered and the Relic was found in 1048, as St. Andrew appeared to a blind beggar. 
The Church celebrates that lucky event on March 12.Later the Relic was kept in a church and in a monastery. Many were the pilgrims coming to Mantua, and also Popes and Emperors were paying
homage like Pope Leo IX° in 1053, and in 1055 the Emperor Henry III.
Basilica St. Andrea He obtained as a present a little fragment, that ended up in the little town of Weingarten (D) where a sanctuary was erected to venerate it. Pope Pius II° Piccolomini confirmed again its authenticity because he, being ill, asked for healing by the Holy Blood and he recovered miraculously.  In 1472, to provide a worthy home for the Relic, work started on the actual Basilica of St. Andrea-Andrew on a project of Leon Battista Alberti. In 1479 there was a new discovery of the fragment kept in the Church of S. Paolo. The Holy Blood of Jesus has been cared for since 1500 in two shrines of pure gold made by Nicolò da Milano but designed by Bernini. During the Italian Risorgimento, in 1848 they were stolen by the Austro-Hungarian troops and never found again. The Relic was divided into fragments, split and hidden as a precaution in the years before. The Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, to make reparation paid for the new shrines made by Giuseppe Bellezza.
This shrines are displayed every Holy Friday, at Easter Time to the believers and then brought out along the streets of Mantua in a procession. This tradition has unfortunately been largely discontinued.
For the rest of the year the precious Relic is kept in the underground crypt, by a central altar and within an iron coffer in the Basilica. Every 21st of April (2000) the coffer is opened. The local civil and religious Authority, keeper of the keys, together open the many locks.

the underground crypt

Bishop  keeper of the keys     THE SACRED VESSELS the Shrines are brought up to the Basilica
displayed for adoration to the believers (21 April 2000)

On Friday the Shrines are brought up to the Basilica and displayed
 for adoration to the believers.




Text taken from the works about the Holy Relic by Luigi Pescasio 


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THE SACRED VESSELS 21st of April 2000