The ancient coffins of Notre Dame are beginning to reveal their secrets

French researchers charged with analyzing ancient antiquities announced, on Friday, that two anthropomorphic lead coffins found inside the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris (France) in March and May of this year belonged to a famous priest and a high-class knight.

The tombs were discovered during preparations to rebuild the cathedral’s central nave, which collapsed due to a fire in April 2019.

The two tombs are located next to the choir of the nave, at different locations and depths, in a good state of preservation. The first sarcophagus, which dates from between the 14th century and the late 17th century, contains the mummified remains of a man whose identity has yet to be established.

The individual would have died between the ages of 25 and 40, possibly from chronic meningitis associated with tuberculosis, said anthropologist from the University of Toulouse 3 Eric Crobery, who was involved in the research.

Cemetery for the elite

Analysis of the bones revealed that he had “practiced horsemanship from a young age” and regular handling of weapons. It is believed that he was a high-ranking, rich and distinguished person, because “only 4% of the gentry […] They could have been mummified or buried in a lead coffin,” Crobery explained.

The second sarcophagus contains a bronze plaque with an inscription mentioning an influential priest known as Antoine de Laporte, who died on December 24, 1710, at the age of 83. Analysis of his remains confirmed that he was a venerable churchman who led a good lifestyle.

Burials at Notre Dame were practiced throughout the Middle Ages and modern times. The place where two sarcophagi were found was very popular with notables and cannons, as explained by the head of the excavations, Christophe Besnier. He noted that “more than 300 people were buried at Notre Dame” and this type of burial was “reserved for the elite.”

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