Legendary Christian martyrs Chrysanthus and Daria turned out to be real people

(ORDO NEWS) — Legend has it that the now Christian saints Chrysanthus and Daria, who lived in the third century AD, converted thousands of Romans to the Christian faith. This led to their arrest and attempted torture by the Roman authorities. But they were miraculously protected from torture and held fast to their faith.

In the end, they were sentenced to death and buried alive in a sand pit on the Via Salaria in Rome. How much of their history is real and how much is apocryphal is unknown.

However, scientific studies of skeletal remains found in 2008 in the crypt of the Italian Cathedral in Reggio, Italy, more or less convincingly proved that these are the remains of these saints.

The bones were discovered during renovations of the Reggio Emilio Cathedral in northern Italy in 2008. The altar in the church has remained intact since 1651.

Workers found almost 150 bones belonging to two skeletons in one of the sealed crypts. The skulls were packed in two gold and silver busts deep in the vault of the cathedral, where they had been moved almost five centuries ago.

According to tradition, they belonged to two early Christian martyrs and Saints Chrysanthus and Daria. The remains of these two martyrs were buried in the fourth century and wandered for a while before finding their final resting place in the cathedral at Reggio Emilio.

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Martyrdom of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria from a 14th-century manuscript

The legend of the Christian saints Chrysanth and Daria

Chrysanthos was the son of a Roman senator and was born in the third century AD in Roman Egypt. From an early age, he was tormented by doubts about the Roman gods and the excesses of Roman aristocratic culture.

As a teenager, he converted to Christianity. The frustrated father tried to bring him back to the “pagan” religion, surrounding him with temptations. When everything failed, he decided to marry him to Daria, a beautiful Vestal virgin.

When young, the Roman vestals took a vow of chastity for 30 years, and their most important duty was to look after the sacred fire of Vesta so that it would burn “forever”. It was believed that this sacred flame gives Rome strength and vitality, and its extinction will lead to the fall of the city.

Chrysanth’s father’s plan failed when, under the influence of Chrysanth, Daria also became a Christian. They got married, became celibate, and began to spend their time telling people about Jesus of Nazareth.

It is said that thousands of people were convinced by their sincerity and youthful charisma and converted to Christianity.

The Roman state could not allow this state of affairs to continue. It took cruel measures, and Chrysanthus and Daria were buried alive, and their remains, according to legend, rested in the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia.

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Skeletons of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria in the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia, Italy

How are the bones found in 2008 related to the two martyrs?

Once the bones were found in 2008, researchers quickly turned to them to determine if they really belonged to two legendary Christian martyrs.

They conducted a series of analyzes of the skeletal remains. It was one of the first comprehensive scientific studies ever carried out on the remains of the relics of a Christian saint.

The church’s cooperation was vital, as it risked embarrassment if the remains turned out to be a “fake”. If the relics turned out to be fake, the church intended to seize them, which would be a huge disappointment for the faithful.

Carbon-14 dating of one rib from each skeleton determined the bones to be between AD 80-340, corresponding to the couple’s death in AD 283.

Evidence of lead poisoning in the bones is associated with the elite origins of Chrysanthus and Daria. Lead, found in wine, food, plumbing, utensils, and cosmetics, was a common toxic chemical that Roman aristocrats were exposed to.

Osteological analysis of the bones showed very little wear and tear that would have resulted from physical labor, which is also in keeping with the pair’s upper class status.

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Skeletons of Saints Chrysanthos and Daria in front of the altar in the Cathedral of Reggio Emilia, Italy

The small frame and wide pelvis of one of the skeletons indicate that it was a woman in her early 20s, which was confirmed by DNA analysis.

The bones of the second skeleton were still fused at the time of death, indicating that it had not yet fully formed. This means that it belonged to a person aged 17-18, that is, the age at which Chrysanthos was executed. DNA analysis showed that the bones belonged to a man.

Edio Fulcheri of the University of Genoa, who led the research team, said in 2011 that while it is impossible to say with certainty that the 1,700-year-old bones are the skeletal remains of two Christian martyrs, “all the evidence we have collected indicates that the relics belonged to Chrysanthus and Daria This was a very rare opportunity to study bones and other relics that are directly related to a legend that has been passed down for nearly 2,000 years.

The completeness of the skeletons is also rare for the martyrs of this era, which suggests that these relics were protected and venerated in their entirety for very early in history.”

The bones of the relics, which traditionally belong to the Christian saints Chrysanthus and Daria, provided an opportunity for an exciting collaboration between scientific and religious institutions.

Scientific studies of the remains have provided reasonable confirmation that this couple did indeed live and that they died for their faith, as legend has it.

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