The word “relic” comes from the Latin “reliquiae” and it means “remains”.
Saint Jerome said, “We do not worship, we do not adore, for fear that we should bow down to the creature rather than to the creator, but we venerate the relics of the martyrs in order the better to adore Him whose martyrs they are.”
In August 1679, at the execution of the Welsh Jesuit Martyr, Fr David Lewis, many Catholics were busy dipping cloths in the martyr’s blood. Within a short time of the martyrdom, cures were reported in Monmouthshire. These cures were attributed to the effectiveness of relics of the martyred priest.
There are many known relics of St David Lewis still in existence. At Stonyhurst, there are several small unidentified relics of David Lewis. A small travelling chalice owned by St David Lewis is kept at the Catholic Church in Abergavenny, the saint’s birthplace.
Pieces of the rope with which Fr David Lewis was hanged are in the possession of several churches in this country. The Jesuit house in Farm Street, London, is said to have two pieces, a church at Roehampton has a piece and the Church of St David Lewis and St Francis Xavier, Usk, also has a piece.
The most numerous relics of St David Lewis seem to be cloths stained with his blood. Erdington Abbey has large pieces of linen soaked in his blood. The Church at Usk, as well as its fragment of rope, has a piece of linen stained with his blood. The Carmelite Convent at Lanherne, Cornwall, has a piece of blood stained linen. The Sisters of St Joseph of Annecy at Llantarnam Abbey also treasure a piece of linen stained with the blood of the martyr.
At one time, when Llantarnam Abbey was a private house, it was owned by Lady Frances Morgan, an aunt of Fr David Lewis. For a time, the priest lived with his relatives and regularly said Mass in the chapel there. The spot where he was arrested is opposite the Abbey. The Catholic Church of St David Lewis and St Francis Xavier, Usk, is either on or directly opposite the site of the martyrdom of St David Lewis. It seems appropriate then that relics of St David Lewis are in the safe keeping of the Catholic Church in Usk and Llantarnam Abbey in Cwmbran.