For years it was not clear to which person the bones found in 1991 under the altar of a church in southern Carinthia belonged. Now there is an exciting suspicion: is it the corpse of the oldest saint of Austria?

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Researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) may have succeeded in identifying the bones of the oldest saints in Austria. This was reported by the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF) on Thursday on its website. According to this study, two archaeologists of the ÖAW have since 2016 examined bones of an unknown woman whose body was found in 1991 under the altar of a church on the Hemmaberg in southern Carinthia. In their investigation, the researchers had come to the conclusion that the woman lived in the first century and was worshiped as a saint. Therefore, the assumption suggests that it is the oldest saint in the country.

According to the ORF, the scientists were able to understand the biography of the woman thanks to a DNA analysis of the bones. Accordingly, the analysis showed that the woman came from the southeastern Mediterranean and 35 to 50 years old; She spent her last years of life according to the results of an isotopic study in Central Europe. “We have to assume that the people at that time were very mobile and traveled all over the Roman Empire, which explains why a lady from the eastern Mediterranean region spent her last years in Central Europe,” said scientist Michaela Binder , That the woman was revered as a saint, derived the researchers from the nature of their burial in a reliquary.

Martyr of the persecution of Christians?

The corpse of the woman was found 27 years ago on the Hemmaberg, which in the sixth century was an important place of pilgrimage. However, according to the scientists, the woman was buried there about 400 years after her death; where the corpse had been buried before, is unclear. Since the woman lived at the time of the early persecution of Christians, she was probably worshiped by Christians in the sixth century as a martyr . On the skeleton itself, the researchers found no evidence of the cause of death. “But in early Christian times, people who died a martyr’s death were worshiped as saints,” said Binder.

According to the researchers, the fact that it was not possible to reconstruct who was the woman was also due to the custom at that time: “At that time there were many relics, many saints in circulation,” explained Binder. Every church needed a saint to gain their permission. That is why “many people were surely worshiped as sacred”. (Stz)

 

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