This reliquary dates back to 1838, and belonged to Clementine Papin Carriere, a descendant of the Chouteau family. The religious object is a circular brass container, no larger than a pocket watch, lined with red linen cloth that contains ten relics. A clear lid allows for the relics that are placed in a circular motion to be seen without being removed. The reliquary represents St. Louis’ close ties to Roman Catholicism.
Roman Catholicism has influenced St. Louis since the first European residents settled the region in the 1700s. The French government ensured Catholicism was the primary religion in the territory with its Code Noire of 1724, which mandated only Catholics could cross the Mississippi River. By the time Pierre Laclede and Auguste Chouteau founded St. Louis in 1764, Catholicism had become the default religion among European residents. Worried there was not enough of an official Church presence in the city, Bishop William Duborg relocated the Diocese of Florida and Louisiana to St. Louis in 1818. There he promptly constructed a church near Chouteau’s residence between 2nd and 3rd streets. Duborg founded the Diocese of St. Louis in 1826 and chose Joseph Rosati as its first bishop. Under Rosati’s leadership, the growing town gained a new Cathedral in 1834 at Walnut and 2nd streets. Now the “Old Cathedral,” it became a basilica in 1961 by order of Pope John XXIII in honor of its importance in spreading Catholicism into the West.
Catholic influence on St. Louis remained throughout the 19th and 20th centuries due to consistent immigration. Catholicism was an essential part of the cultural identity of many Irish, German, and Mexican immigrants who moved to the city. These immigrants and their descendants formed communities and became heavily involved in church, political, economic, labor, social, and cultural organizations. Alongside the official Catholic Church, these groups’ activities have left a lasting mark on the city. Today, the St. Louis metro is home to 194 parishes, over 120 catholic schools, and several Catholic social services agencies.
Subject: Catholic Church; Religion; Christian saints
Contributing Institution: Missouri Historical Society
Accession Number: 1919-068-0021
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Region: St. Louis Metro