Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Putative skull of St. Bridget probably not authentic

Date:
February 17, 2010
Source:
Uppsala University
Summary:
The putative skull of St. Bridget of Sweden that has been kept in a shrine in Vadstena Abbey is probably not authentic. A new study reveals that the two skulls, believed to be from St. Bridget and her daughter Catherine, are not from maternally related individuals. Furthermore, dating shows that the skulls are not from the time period when Bridget and Catherine lived.

Skulls formerly believed to be from St. Bridget and her daughter Catherine, kept in a shrine in Vadstena Abbey.
Credit: Image courtesy of Uppsala University

The putative skull of Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden that has been kept in a shrine in Vadstena Abbey is probably not authentic. A new study conducted at Uppsala University reveals that the two skulls, believed to be from Saint Bridget and her daughter Catherine (Katarina), are not from maternally related individuals. Furthermore, dating shows that the skulls are not from the time period when Bridget and Catherine lived.

The findings are published in the journal PLoS ONE.

Vadstena parish assigned Associate Professor Marie Allen's research group at Uppsala University's Department of Genetics and Pathology the task of examining DNA from both skulls, in order to confirm kinship and authenticity. A sensitive method based on analysis of the maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA was used to analyse the skulls. This method makes it possible to examine very small amounts of DNA, and it is often a successful analysis on aged and degraded material.

Saint Bridget of Sweden lived between 1303 and 1373, and was canonized in 1391. In 1999, the Pope declared Bridget one of Europe's Patron Saints. According to the legend, the skulls of both Bridget and her daughter Catherine (1331-1381) have been kept as sacred relics at Vadstena Abbey, located in central Sweden. Bridget was renowned for her revelations, prophecies and pilgrimages. After her death, her remains were taken from Rome to Vadstena, where they were placed in a shrine in 1381. Through the years, small pieces of the relics were selected and given to churches, monasteries, kings and popes. Currently, the shrine in Vadstena contains two skulls, as well as 23 other bones. Among these, a femur bone is thought to be from Saint Bridget. A third skull that was stolen from Vadsrena in 1645, is now in an abbey in Holland. An anthropological and archaeological study from the 1950s concluded that the two skulls that remains in Vadstena probably are from two women, aged between 60-70 years and 50-55 years, respectively. This corresponds well with the theory that the skulls in the Vadstena relic shrine could be from Bridget and her daughter Catherine.

The scientists analysed small pieces of the skulls and concluded that both skulls are female by a nuclear DNA-analysis. Moreover, a maternal relationship can be excluded by analysis of mitochondrial DNA. There were indications of a difference in the preservation of the DNA, which could be due to an age difference between the skulls. Professor Gφran Possnert at Uppsala University's Tandem Laboratory performed further testing, using advanced radiocarbon dating (C-14) technology. The results confirmed those obtained by the DNA analysis.

"One skull cannot be attributed to Bridget or Catherine as it dates back to the period 1470-1670. The other skull, thought to be from Saint Bridget, is dated to 1215-1270 and is thus not likely to be from the 14th Century when Bridget lived. It cannot, however, be completely excluded that the older skull is from Bridget if she had a diet dominated by fish, which can shift the dating results. But this is unlikely," says Gφran Possnert.

"The results from both methods support each other. Our DNA analyses show that we can exclude a mother and daughter relationship. This is also confirmed by the dating as a difference of at least 200 years between the skulls is seen," says Marie Allen.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Uppsala University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Nilsson et al. Analysis of the Putative Remains of a European Patron Saint–St. Birgitta. PLoS ONE, 2010; 5 (2): e8986 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008986

Cite This Page:

Uppsala University. "Putative skull of St. Bridget probably not authentic." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100216113849.htm>.
Uppsala University. (2010, February 17). Putative skull of St. Bridget probably not authentic. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100216113849.htm
Uppsala University. "Putative skull of St. Bridget probably not authentic." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/02/100216113849.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Sunken WWII U-Boat That Fired On U.S. Convoy Found

Newsy (Oct. 22, 2014) — U-576, a long-lost German U-boat the U.S. sank in 1942, has been found just 30 miles off North Carolina's coast and near the wreckage of another ship. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Turns Out Jack The Ripper's True Identity Is Still Unknown

Newsy (Oct. 20, 2014) — After testing DNA from a shawl found near one of Jack the Ripper's victims, a scientist said he'd identified the killer. New reports refute the claim. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Fish Fossil Shows First-Ever Sex Was Done Side By Side

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — A 380-million-year-old fish may be the first creature to have copulative sex - and it was side by side with arms linked, like square dancers. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

As Sweden Hunts For Sub, "Cold War" Comparisons Flourish

Newsy (Oct. 19, 2014) — With Sweden on the look-out for a suspected Russian sub, a lot of people are talking about the Cold War, but is it an apt comparison? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins