The true religion of the middle age, to be frank, is the worship of relics. How could men of that time raise themselves to the metaphysical and moral conceptions of Christian doctrine? To the masses religion was the veneration of the remains of saints or of objects which had been used by Jesus or the Virgin. It was believed that divine intervention in human affairs manifested itself especially through the power of relics. Therefore, hardly anything was done, whether in public or private life, without having recourse to the protection or the guarantee of those sacred objects.
Relics were brought to councils and assemblies; on them the most solemn oaths were taken, treaties between entire peoples and conventions between individuals, were sworn. They were the shield and buckler of cities. Was there need of asking God to end a long-enduring rain? A procession was held and the relics were shown. Whoever undertook a distant pilgrimage, a dangerous voyage, or a campaign of war, first went to pray to a saint, to see and touch a relic. The chevalier put some relics in the hilt of his sword; the tradesman, in a little sack suspended from his neck.[…]
To meet attacks and to keep the faith of believers alive, “expositions” or even “revelations” of relics were instituted. The presence of the sacred remains in the shrines was verified, a procedure which always reassured consciences; and searches were conducted under altars and in tombs for new objects of veneration. In either case the religious solemnity demanded the assembling of all authorities of the land, and drew a large concourse of people. The church gained by it in every way.