An interdisciplinary study around the reliquary of the late cardinal Jacques de Vitry

Ronny Decorte, Caroline Polet, Mathieu Boudin, Françoise Tilquin, Jean Yves Matroule, Marc Dieu, Catherine Charles, Aurore Carlier, Fiona Lebecque, Olivier Deparis

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The reliquary of Jacques de Vitry, a prominent clergyman and theologian in the early 13th century, has experienced several transfers over the last centuries, which seriously question the attribution of the remains to the late Cardinal. Uncertainty about the year of his birth poses an additional question regarding his age at death in 1240. The reliquary, located in the Saint Marie d’Oigines church, Belgium, was reopened in 2015 for an interdisciplinary study around his relics as well as the Treasure of Oignies, a remarkable cultural heritage notably built from Jacques de Vitry’s donation. Anthropological, isotopic and genetic analyses were performed independently on the remains found in the reliquary. Results of the analyses provided evidence that the likelihood that these remains are those of Jacques de Vitry is very high: the remains belong to the same human male individual and the historical tradition about his age is confirmed. In addition, a separate relic (left tibia) was analysed and found to match with the remains of the reliquary (right tibia). The unique Jacques de Vitry’s mitre, made of parchment, was sampled non-destructively and the extracted parchment collagen was analysed by a proteomic method in order to determine the animal species. The results showed that, surprisingly, not all parts of the mitre were made from the same species. All together, these findings are expected to fertilize knowledge carried by historical tradition around the relics of Jacques de Vitry and his related cultural heritage.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0201424
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


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