Remains of Anglo-Saxon Saint discovered?

Archaeologists working in the Oxfordshire town of Bicester believe they have discovered a reliquary containing some of the bones of Saint Edburg, a seventh-century saint.

John Moore Heritage Services is conducting the excavations of a site of former apartment buildings (flats) which is being redeveloped. The land once belonged to Bicester Priory, and the archaeological work has uncovered the entire north transept of the Priory Church, After coming across thirteen other skeletons during the dig, the archaeologists found some partial remains of a skeleton wrapped in a lead sheet.

Paul Riccoboni, who is leading the archaeological work for John Moore Heritage Services, told the Bicester Advertiser, “We have found a reliquary which is probably the bones of St Edburg. It is really exciting. A first-class reliquary is actually the bones of a saint and a second-class is the clothes of a saint. It is the first time I am aware of, or come across, others being found. I am assuming they are the bones of Saint Edburg.”

Saint Edburg was the daughter of King Penda of Mercia, and spent most of her life as a nun. She even founded a monastery and died in the year 650. Her relics were kept at Bicester Priory from the twelfth century to 1500, when Pope Alexander VI ordered her remains to be removed and relocated to Belgium. Apparently, some of the bones remained behind and were reburied at the Priory Church.

The other remains found may also date back to the fourteenth century, and probably include monks and prominent local citizens. Mr Riccoboni added, “There is only one other excavation like it to a modern standard. It’s a very rare excavation.”

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