A scientific investigation of human bones locked in a crypt in the northern Italian cathedral of Reggio Emilia since the 10th Century supports an ancient tradition – that the remains are of Christian lovers martyred almost two millennia ago.
The investigation is the first comprehensive battery of scientific tests ever conducted on the remains of a pair of Catholic saints — in this case, two virtually complete skeletons — along with a burial cloth and reliquary box. The team of scientists used a variety of advanced methods including DNA analysis and carbon dating to answer the question: Are these the remains of the martyred Roman husband and wife Chrysanthus and Daria? Legend says the two were buried alive in the Third Century CE after becoming Christians and converting thousands of Romans to their fledgling religion.
“All of the evidence we have gathered points toward the relics having belonged to Chrysanthus and Daria,” said investigation leader Ezio Fulcheri of the University of Genoa, who received funding from the National Geographic Society for the work.
Carbon-14 dating determined the age of the bones at a range of 80 CE to 340 CE, which coincides with historical recording of the martyrdom of Chrysanthus and Daria around the year 283 CE. The investigation of the mystery surrounding the bones became a documentary, EXPLORER: Mystery of the Murdered Saints, which aired on the National Geographic Channel.
According to tradition, Chrysanthus was born the only son of a Roman senator from Alexandria, grew up in Rome and eventually converted to Christianity. His father disapproved of his conversion and, to bring him back to the Roman faith, arranged a marriage between his son and a high priestess of Rome named Daria. However, the plan backfired, as Daria embraced her new husband’s religion and, according to the story, worked with Chrysanthus to convert thousands more to Christianity.
Ultimately the two were arrested by the Roman Empire for proselytizing, and around 283 CE the young adults were buried alive in a sand mine in Rome. A wall was eventually erected around the grave for protection. Historical sources record that the bones were moved numerous times between 757 and 914, when Pope John X conceded the relics to Italian King Berengario.
Finally, in 946 the king donated them back to the church, transferring their custody to the diocese of Reggio Emilia, where, according to the diocese, they have since been kept beneath the church’s altar. Upon completion of the study, the relics were preserved and secured in a new reliquary and placed once again under the altar at Reggio Emilia. To read more about this discovery, please click here.
Source: National Geographic