Memory and Devotion: The Relic Collection of Burchard Villiger, S.J.,
Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J., Special Collection Rooms (3rd Floor)
John and Maryanne Hennings Post Learning Commons
Burchard Villiger, S.J., fifth president of Saint Joseph’s (1868-93), amassed one of the largest collections of relics and reliquaries in the United States. This, Villiger considered a most suitable endowment for his newly built Church of the Gesù and college buildings on Girard Avenue in North Philadelphia.
Most of the hundreds of relics in Villiger’s collection were acquired in Rome in the 19th century from “a noble family fallen on hard times” and endure to this day at the Church of the Gesù at St. Joseph’s Prep, at Old St. Joseph’s Church, and at Saint Joseph’s University. About 45 of these relics and reliquaries have been gathered from our Jesuit institutions in Philadelphia for this exhibit.
A 16-page printed text is available at the exhibit venue that creates a context for understanding:
- the Catholic Church’s teaching on the veneration of relics
- the history of the tradition;
- Fr. Villiger’s motives in collecting relics and bringing them to Philadelphia;
- sacred and secular relics, power politics and national identity
- the direct links from relics in church treasuries to modern museums.
The exhibit will be on display through December.
For more information, please contact:
Director, Saint Joseph’s University Press
5600 City Avenue
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19131