The Odyssey of a Saint - Lucius, a Roman Papal Saint and his Merits from AD 253 to 2016

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The Odyssey of the relic skull of St. Lucius has lasted some 1600 years. Lucius held his seat as a pope from 253 – 254 and later became the patron saint of the Cathedral in Roskilde. The main goals of this study were to date and verify the Lucius relic and to investigate its way from Rome to Denmark and its present whereabouts. Our survey presents relevant parts of the way of handling and worshipping relics as well as the history of some national Nordic saints as a background for the Lucius skull. Initially the skull was honored as a holy relic, then kept as a historical museum item and then again revitalized as a religious object, still carrying its inventory number. Besides archaeological and written sources investigations include radiocarbon dating, Sr.isotope analysis and anthropological examination of the skull. Based on the radiocarbon date (within the period A.D. 332 – 430) the skull cannot belong to the historical pope Lucius and the Sr.isotope analysis did not point to any distinct place of origin.
Our conclusion is that the actual Lucius skull may actually have been brought from Rome to Roskilde in the beginning of the 12th century or around 1100. It remained as the Cathedral’s main relic until Reformation time, when it was deprived of its ornaments. In the second half of the 17th Century, and after having lost its religious attraction the skull was transferred from the Cathedral to the King’s Collections in Copenhagen. With the Collections it went to the National Museum which agreed to deposit it in 1908 in the Roman Catholic main Church of St. Ansgars’s in Copenhagen, now the Roman Catholic Cathedral. 1908 veneration started again and has continued until now, the relic being kept in a new golden bust.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOra Pro Nobis : Space, Place and the Practice of Saints´Cults in Medieval and Early-Modern Scandinavia and Beyond
EditorsNils Holger Petersen, Mia Münster-Swendsen, Thomas Heebøll-Holm, Martin Wangsgaard Jürgensen
Number of pages25
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
PublisherSyddansk Universitetsforlag
Publication date2019
ISBN (Print)978-87-408-3235-8
Publication statusPublished - 2019
SeriesPublications from the National Museum / Studies in archaeology & history

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