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Study of Saints' remains at Santi Apostoli Church in Rome

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Santi Apostoli Church in Rome is famous not only for its beautiful architecture, but also for having some of the relics of two of the original twelve apostles. Tradition holds that the remains of two saints, Phillip and James the Younger, were brought to the church from Constantinople. It also has the relics of later early Christian martyrs.

Scientific investigation may cast some doubt on the identity of the remains of the two supposed saints, however.



So, are the relics really the remains of St. James and St. Philip? And what else can we learn from the bones?

The skeletons are today far from complete. Only fragments of a tibia, a femur and a mummified foot remain. The tibia and foot are attributed to St. Philip, the femur to St. James. It appears likely that this has been the case since the sixth century.


The results are published in the scientific journal Heritage Science.

The researchers considered the remains of St. Philip too difficult to de-contaminate and radiocarbon date, and their age thus remains unknown so far. But the femur, believed to belong to St. James, underwent several analyses. Most importantly, it was radiocarbon dated to AD 214-340.

Thus, the preserved relic, the femur, is not that of St. James. It originates from an individual some 160-240 years younger than St. James, explains Professor Kaare Lund Rasmussen, University of Southern Denmark, adding:

Who that person was, is of course impossible to say.






Summary: Scientific investigations, once again, help to shed light on ancient history.


guy also known as gaius



Edited by guy

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Relics? Oh dear. I suppose it might just be possible that these bits really are remnants of the individuals claimed, but the reality is the vast majority of revered christian relics are nothing but fakes (and not always human either). Medieval christians were suckers for this kind of thing and grave robbers did good business selling their wares. I heard somewhere there were more pieces of the true cross than the original.

Then there was that marvellous story about the crusaders under siege in Antioch in the First Crusade. Things were going badly, water and food petering out, and then some bright spark told his mates that he'd had a vision that the spear that pierced Christ would be found buried in the castle shrine. So they dug and found a spear. Inspired by religious fervour (and delirious with dehydration and starvation) the knights got on horses and charged out to meet the much larger Turkish army, and caused a rout of the Turks. Incredible.

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