Home LATEST NEWS The mysterious lead sarcophagus at Notre-Dame soon to be opened

The mysterious lead sarcophagus at Notre-Dame soon to be opened

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The anthropomorphic sarcophagus, probably dating from the 14th century, was unearthed in March during archaeological excavations prior to reconstruction work on the spire of the cathedral, partially destroyed by the fire of April 2019.

Buried more than a meter underground, in the western part of the crossing of the transept, it was in a good state of preservation. An endoscopic camera allowed a first exploration of the interior of the sarcophagus, without opening it: the upper part of the skeleton of the deceased, the remains of plants under his head, perhaps hair, textiles as well as an object not yet identified.

The sarcophagus was taken to a secure location.

An endoscopic camera allowed a first exploration of the contents of the sarcophagus.

Photo: Inrap / © Denis Gliksman, Inrap

Extracted from the cathedral on Tuesday, the burial was deposited in a secure location awaiting dispatch very soon at the Forensic Institute of Toulouse, said Inrap (National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research) during a press conference.

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Forensic doctors and scientists will open the sarcophagus there to study the bones of the deceased and other objects, in order to identify his sex and his state of health, and to refine by carbon 14 dating a still uncertain chronology, indicated Christophe Besnier, scientific manager of the excavations.

The sarcophagus is located under embankments containing 14th century furniture… if it turns out that it is indeed a sarcophagus from the Middle Ages, we are on an extremely rare burial practice. »

A quote from Christophe Besnier, scientific manager of the excavations

The studies could also provide information on the rank of the deceased, belonging a priori to an ecclesiastical or secular elite.

Work under the current paving of the cathedral.

Work under the current paving of the cathedral.

Photo: EPRNDP/INRAP/Denis Gliksman

But a human body is not an archaeological objectnoted Dominique Garcia, president of theNational Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research. As a human remains, the civil code applies and archaeologists will study it as such.

The team from the Toulouse Forensic Institute has already studied the burial of Louise de Quengo, a Breton noblewoman who died in 1656, and whose remarkably well-preserved remains had been found during excavations at the Couvent des Jacobins in Rennes, a- he recalled.

Once the studies have been completed, the sarcophagus will be returned not as an archaeological object but as an anthropological asset. What will be his final resting place? The trail of a re-burial at Notre-Dame is under study, according to theNational Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research.

Louise de Quengo was buried in 2015 in the cemetery of Tonquédec, commune of Côtes-d’Armor.

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