Beginning around the 2nd Century, churches began to display important relics from saints. Relics ranged from ordinary objects (like pieces of fabric) to parts of a human skeleton. Believers would take long pilgrimages (spiritual trips) to visit shrines or holy places where relics were displayed. In time, the use of relics became a means for trickery and abuse. Citizens would flock to a church that held a saint's relic hoping to be blessed or healed by that particular saint.
Cults of Relics: http://www.the-orb.net/encyclop/religion/hagiography/cult.htm
Catholic Church and Relics: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12734a.htm