Located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Saint Anthony’s Chapel is a Catholic chapel and is the home of the biggest collection of relics in the world outside of the Vatican. It houses 5,000 relics of saints which Catholics believe have a tangible connection to heaven.
The construction of the chapel started in 1880 under the orders of Godfrey Mollinger, the pastor of the Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish in the neighborhood of Troy Hill, Suitbert. All of the relics in the chapel were his personal property.
The chapel was built at his own expense with money that he had from his family in Belgium. Because of the money that he inherited, Father Mollinger was in a position to buy a large number of relics which were available on the open market in Europe during the 1800s.
There are two parts or phases of the chapel: the original chapel with the relics, which is also known as “The Shrine of the Saints,” and the chapel’s annex, which houses the life-size wooden statues of the Stations of the Cross, also known as “the Way of the Cross.” Two days after the grand opening of the chapel, Father Mollinger died. He dedicated the chapel to Saint Anthony of Padua.
By building this chapel and filling it with 5,000 relics, he gave hope to thousands of sick people who annually made pilgrimages there to pray in front of the relics. After a while, a small museum was opened above the chapel with gifts from the faithful who claimed to no longer need them.
After the death of Mollinger, the chapel was sold to the parishioners of Most Holy Name for $30,000. He did not leave a will, and the chapel was stripped of all portable items that could be sold.
Today, the chapel is open to the public and visitors can see these grand historic artifacts, which represent an important part of humanity’s history.
The most notable relics in the chapel are the skeletal remains of Saint Demetrius, the tooth of Saint Anthony of Padua, and the skulls of Saint Macharius, Saint Stephana, Saint Ursula, and Saint Theodore.The chapel fell into disrepair in the 1970s, but it was restored by 1978 by Bishop Leonard, the pastor of the Most Holy Name.