back to article Swedish mother-daughter saint skulls are ringers, say boffins

The skulls of a mother-and-daughter pair of female Swedish saints, treasured as holy relics for centuries at the abbey of their order, have been exposed as fakes by genetics boffins. The two skulls were supposed to be those of Saint Bridget (Birgitta) of Sweden and her daughter Saint Catherine (Katarina), noted heavyweight …


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  1. M7S

    Magic Holy Deer of God

    Apart from sounding wonderfully pythonesque (Blessed be JC's name), could the church remind us please how on this front they differ from pantheons such as the Greeks where Zeus would appear as a swan, bull etc depending on exactly which woman he was trying to ravish, which they always taught us was primitive and heathen?

    1. jake Silver badge


      Easy answer ... In the early days of Christianity, Rome appropriated various bits of pagan symbolism in order to hijack the faith of the GreatUnwashed[tm]. So-called "halos" came from depictions of various values of Sun God, "Christmas" came from the near universal[1] celebration of the winter Solstice, etc.

      How they pulled off this massive misdirection should be taught in high school, with the intention of teaching kids how the extremely wealthy and powerful tend to be ruthless when it comes to retaining that wealth and power, but if you keep your eyes & ears open, you can usually see thru' their machinations. But if that ever happens, most of the current Western-style governmental systems world-wide would be voted out of power in a generation ... why do you think the first place that most governments make cuts is in education?

      [1] For earthly values of "universal", of course ... but I'll bet you a nickle that if we ever meet up with a real ET that evolved on a planet with a tipped axis, that culture will have a similar celebration, and for the same reason(s).

  2. DrunkenMessiah

    Science > Religion

    Score one for the church dodgers. If only we could DNA test God and Jesus!

    1. Anon the mouse

      Might I suggest....

      The Miracle strain by Michael Cordy......I think it was renamed the God Gene or something though.

      Fantastic read,

  3. TeeCee Gold badge

    Chinese whispers.

    It's amazing how "I would have been in, but some horny little bugger got there first", becomes "...a magic holy deer of god..." over a few hundred years.

  4. AlistairJ

    Mother and daughter

    Medieval relic forgery was a big business. These two died in Rome, but in order to get a decent pilgrim footfall, the nuns pretended their skulls were in residence. Their holy attractions thus enhanced.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Now firmly in Blackadder territory

      Edmund: Ah. Well, let's start with the pardons, shall we?

      Baldrick: Right. Well, this is a fair selection. Basically, you seem to get what you pay for. They run all the way from this one, which is a pardon for talking with your mouth full, signed by an apprentice curate in Tukesbury.

      Edmund: Ah. How much is that?

      Baldrick: Two pebbles. ...all the way up to this one, which is a pardon for (reads) anything whatsoever, including murder, adultery, or dismemberment of (Edmund reads along) a friend or relative.

      Edmund: Who's that signed by?

      Baldrick: Both popes.

      1. mike2R


        Percy: Well, you won't be able to fool everyone! Look (he takes a red cloth

        from his sleeve): I have here a true relic.

        Edmund: What is it?

        Percy: (unwraps the cloth) It is a bone from the finger of Our Lord. It cost

        me 31 pieces of silver.

        Edmund: Good lord. Is it real?

        Percy: It is, My Lord. Baldrick, you stand amazed.

        Baldrick: I am -- I thought they only came in boxes of ten. (he opens a box

        of finger bones)

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Well theres a shock

    A holy relic turns out to be a fake. Who'd have thought??

    Next they'll be saying those rotten little bits of wood you can buy in certain places that are supposedly part of the cross are fakes too and that statues of mary don't really shed bloody tears!

    Religion is living proof of the "there's one born every day" saying.

  6. Anonymous Coward


    Somehow it's barely news that Catholics fell for a scam with no evidence to back it up now is it?

  7. Kevin 6


    "the most celebrated saint of the Northern kingdoms", famous for having visions of Jesus and writing down stuff he had told her."

    Seriously where I work (Mental institution) we have MANY people that talk to jesus and are told stuff by him all day long. Seriously if these saints and prophets lived nowadays they would be locked in a rubber room by the government. But then again many people need to be locked in the rubber room (mostly politicians) of an asylum.

    1. The BigYin

      Years ago...

      ...people saw pixies and fairies.

      Then it was angels, demons, Jesus etc.

      Now it's aliens.

      It's all the friggin' same if you ask me. OK, I don't think Jesus was big on anal probes like the aliens apparently are, but you get my drift. It's all some general brain-fart (hallucination, waking dream, genuine insanity, etc). or just plain, money-making fraud.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      "If you talk to God, you're religious. If God talks to you, you're psychotic."

      Thank House, MD (the TV show)!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        how does that fit in

        First sign of madness you talk to yourself. Second sign of madness yourself talks back.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I find it funny that the church with all the soul stuff is so damned keen on dead bones.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wait, magic holy deer for a protector?

    Your saintfulness, you are Harry Potter aicmfp.

  10. ian 22

    Its a miracle!

    Surely a mother and daughter being temporally and genetically disjoint must qualify as a miracle, and will be seen as such by the faithful. True believers will always believe.

    Boffins (and the gods) contend with them in vain.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    "......married a German nobleman but managed to persuade him to join her in a vow of mutual chastity..... "

    Never a better description of what consitutes a marriage........ seems like all the married men I know are "pursuaded" in to a vow of chastity, usually after the first child, but more commonly after the ring goes on.

  12. Flugal

    What they said

    Preaching to the converted (or the enlightened) in here though I think....

  13. Bilgepipe

    Something Fishy

    Does that mean eating fish makes you younger?

    I'll get my coat.

  14. Rod MacLean

    Stupid god-botherers

    How long before they say something like

    "The magic sky-fairy can do anything (as any fule kno) and so he could easily have tampered with the results..."

  15. Pete 43

    Plenty of opportunity for "Cross Selling"


  16. Anonymous Coward

    You'd be arrested these days

    "the pair lived as virgins until she joined her mother on the journey to Rome"

    That must have been a spectacular journey to have been on....

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    religion: its a steady job in a recession

    Watch BBC4 The Secret Life of Chaos

    Relax and treat religious history as entertainment a bit less interesting that Harry Potter and the like.

  18. Rodrigo Valenzuela

    You talk to God, you're religious...

    God talks to you, you're psychotic


  19. Neal 5

    I cannot believe all the cynicism here

    especially in the story. Gawd blow me down, you lot would believe anything.

    In a series of quotes by several scientist, it was stated that God does not play dice.

    A. Einsteins reply = Tell God that.

    1. fred #257

      You got that wrong too

      It was Einstein said "I cannot believe God plays dice" (opposite to what you imply). And he was talking about quantum theory, not yer standard Jehovah/Allah/Godbeing at all. It hardly seems relevant to current topic anyway, does it?

      Here's a genuine Einstein quote for ya: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly."

    2. CaptainPedantic

      RE: neal 5

      Actually, it was Einstein who said "god does not play dice with the universe".

  20. Dave the Shoe

    ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!!!!

    "...lived in mutual chastity and the pair lived as virgins until she joined her mother on the journey to Rome."

    Yep, it's amazing what a road trip can do to your virginity.

  21. Dave the Shoe
    Dead Vulture

    In tact bones?

    Isn't there something in Catholosism/Christianity that says bodies need to be in tact so that in the after life you get your body back... Seems a bit harsh... Great work girls, saint hood and all that, buuuuut we're just gonna keep you're head over hear, please let us know when you need it.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      intact? not quite

      What the dogma says, if I recall correctly, and paraphrasing a bit is that when the resurrection day comes for us mere mortals, we will be reborn in mind and body

      It doesn't say that the remains have to stay together or even stay intact. They don't really matter. Your body will resurrect out of the blue anyway. Or something.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      Isn't that obvious?

      I'm really not into Catholicism and such. But why would you need a body in your afterlife? (Assuming there is one at all.) Then again saints usually become saints once they are dead for a while. Maybe they just want saints to remain there (whereever "there" is) so they chop them up which, as others have pointed out already, makes for a greate franchise as well $


  22. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Little bits of wood

    Well, that's just another miracle of the cross... all those little splinters of the cross, at one point someone added up just the main ones (the ones actually at churches) and figured there was about 10 crosses worth of wood altogether. Miraculous how they reproduce themselves isn't it?

    Anyway, yeah... I don't think this is uncommon at all, for skulls, skeletons, and other various relics to get mixed up after they've been in some catacomb for hundreds of years. They may have had the true skulls at one point. Or not.

  23. Tanuki
    Thumb Down

    Alas, poor Yorick.

    OK, after they sort out that particular Catholic-reliquary scam, I can offer - to the enduring realm of Shakespearian actors - the skull of Yorick *as a boy*.

    [Anyone seeking to buy the 21st-century equivalent of 'papal indulgences' - better known as carbon-offsets' - at a discount should queue to my rear]

  24. Youngone Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Lots of Gods

    I think the Catholics must be jealous of the Hindus, with their huge number of Gods. This is just polytheism, which the last couple of Popes seem to be really keen on judging by the number of new saints they've created.

  25. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Saints preserve me!

    Well actually, no thanks.

    I think I'll pass.

    For an interesting read about religion of this time period, 14th Century, read Ken Follett's "World without end".

    A work of fiction yes, but an interesting take on how ancient and superstitious religious people lived.

  26. hplasm

    So retroactive virginity...

    is practical amonst Catholics- surely that undermines one particular Virgin Birth then?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not at all

      It's a miracle, you foolish knowlessman. Their invisible friend can do that if he wants to.

      Could I interest you in a "Get out of Hell FREE!" card for a slight consideration?

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And lo it was written

    Jesus did speak unto Brigitta. Birgitta did listen upon his words and they were good. So Birgitta did begin the task of "writing down stuff he had told her"

    What a way with words, Lewis.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Science > Religion #

    Score one for the church dodgers. If only we could DNA test God and Jesus!"

    How so?

    If you had said Science > Gullible churchmen then I am with you, but how does the proof that some bones thought to be of two people are not actually the people in question in any way disprove religion?

    In the same vein, the proof, by science, that Piltdown man was actually a forgery proves that Science > science which is logically impossible, or that the long held scientific "proof" that bees shouldn't be able to fly disproves Darwin's theory of evolution*

    *OK, for the less subtle and to avoid an evolution vs. ID shitstorm - the point is that the physics of bumblebee flight has nothing at all to do with evolution. At all. Nothing. Same as whether some bones belonging to some ancient German frigid bird has nothing to do with teh existance or otherwise of God.

    1. DrunkenMessiah


      I didn't say that this disproves religion, you can't disprove religion, it's here and unfortunately, probably here to stay. Nor did I suggest that this disproves God. I merely meant to suggest that science has once again got one up on organised religion.

      I'm totally with you on the gullible churchmen thing. I wish people didn't just blindly believe whatever they were told by an old man in a pointy hat who worships an invisible (convenient eh?) sky fairy.

      I can see it coming though, some backlash argument about how the science is wrong... it'll be the Shroud of Turin all over again.

  29. Mr Grumblefish

    Dammit, El Reg

    You know you're only supposed to report on Swedish women if they're lesbians or gang banging innocent cyclists. (Or have I just missed The Lesbian Angle).

  30. Downtrodden but not Defeated


    surely some skulduggery going on here .....

    exits left fast

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