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Kansas City, Missouri

The Holy Finger of Kansas City

A piece of John the Baptist in the American heartland. 

There are many Christian relics in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, but one is of particular interest.

A glass vial among the gold and silver religious objects holds what is, upon closer inspection, undeniably a human finger bone. That finger bone is said to be that of John the Baptist, baptiser, disciple, and first cousin of Jesus of Nazareth. This coup of an artifact was purchased by the Nelson Trust, but before then was part of the collection of artifacts known as the Guelph Treasure, which was housed at the Brunswick Cathedral in Germany.

John the Baptist’s right hand, the one with which he baptized Jesus, is said to be in the Serbian Orthodox Church in the Cetinje monastery in Montenegro. What is supposedly his head can be found in the Amiens Cathedral in France and other remains attributed to him (including a knuckle bone, an arm, and a tooth) were found in Bulgaria. Visitors wanting to see more holy fingers can venture further into the Nelson-Atkins museum, to the tremendous Caravaggio portrait John the Baptist in the Wilderness, where the finger and the rest of the saint sit in the woods in gloomy, shadowy contemplation.