The Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics houses over 1,000 relics of the Saints and the True Cross. 95% of the relics in the Maria Stein collection are First Class.
Why do we venerate saints' relics?
From the very beginning of the Church, the martyrs were held in high esteem because they so perfectly lived their life for Christ, even to death. At first, it was tradition to gather around a martyr's tomb, especially in the catacombs, to celebrate the Eucharist. The Eucharist memorializes Jesus' self-sacrifice, thus it is fitting also to remember the martyrs' self sacrifice through the Eucharistic celebration.
Eventually, when possible, churches were built over the tombs of saints (St. Peter's in Rome is a well-known example). When building over a martyr's tomb was not possible, relics of the saints would be imbedded in an altar stone. Today, when possible, relics are still placed beneath an altar.
Saints are those who have lived a life of virtue and serve as a model for all of us to live the Gospel as they did. The relics are visible, tangible signs to us of their life and our own call to a live a life of holiness and self-sacrifice. Those who have gone to heaven before us intercede for us.
We have relics of saints from the first century to the twenty-first century.