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Current time:0:00Total duration:4:38

Video transcript

the most important and potent relics the most efficacious often take us directly back to the scene of original sacrifice of Jesus of Mary and of the martyrs and they're often body parts we find that a little bit grisly in gruesome now and in fact the exhibition really concentrates on the gorgeous shrines and relic ways in which they have been concealed these body parts the contemporary relevance of relics was demonstrated most powerfully in this very space during the installation of the exhibition when the Bishop of the Georgian community in London invited several Georgian nuns into the space for a prayer service this in a ways is a very important development because it shows really that an object even in a secular environment like a museum can still have religious significance for certain community it's to do with bridging time you reach the original make a connection crosstown to the fountain of grace which is that person who in the case of Jesus died for our sins in the case of the Martins testified to that Redemption I am so moved and touched I don't think I'm able to talk properly this is st. Catherine is so important to Georgia it's one of the most important things the past keeps retreating so then you need newer generations of saints and witnesses to come forward and give a new archaeological layer that is closer to us and so we have you know modern Saints we have Joan of Arc we have terrorism Vizu the relics of Santa Eze have been circulated around the world in this amazing architectural shrine since 1997 which is the hundredth anniversary of her death this desire to be close to the saint to to feel a physical proximity to the Saints bones is an abiding characteristic relic veneration and something which persists to the present day from its inception in the Middle Ages relics began to be part of a different kind of story and they moved in the 18th century they moved into the popular secular sphere and you got the first waxworks rose and that period is crucial in what has happened to the idea of the relic in contemporary culture because that period saw the secularization of a lot of religious ritual the guillotine that madame tussauds brought to london for her waxworks exhibition was sold to her by the executioner so he said and it is meant to be the blade that fell on the neck of the Queen Marie Antoinette who is also in effigy in Madame Tussauds that guillotine blade has been used by the contemporary artist cornelia parker cornelia parker is one of the inspired contemporary artists who has revisited and reworked these structures of the imagination that invest objects with far greater meaning than they would carry without the associations that they have acquired over time people will go to look for instance you know at the ropes that were worn by kings queens celebrities these things decked out on the effigies at Madame Tussauds it's not such a great remove from the medieval experience at all really we are going to have this thirst for celebrity this desire to be close to the famous the charisma the way they've been charmed in the way objects that have touched them have being charmed its part in central to our relationship to history to memory and to the things that matter