Report on Mark van Strydonck’s talk on the study of Belgian local Saints
Tuesday 24 November, 2015
Professor Mark Van Strydonck specialises in radiocarbon dating and stable isotope research (13C/12C and 15N/14N). Since 1978, he has been responsible for the radiocarbon dating laboratory at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA for its initials in Dutch and French, respectively), an institute committed to the inventory, the scientific study, the conservation and the promotion of the country's artistic and cultural property.
On 11 November 2015, he gave a Relics Cluster lecture about his work on the study of the remains of local Belgian saints. More than 60 skeletal remains were radiocarbon dated and their stable isotopes 13C and 15N analysed to find out about dietary information. The conclusions obtained suggested that medieval diet, tended not to be vegetarian and was the saints’ diet was not different from the general population of the time.
Prof. van Strydonck explained that Christian relics result from people’s need of something material to prove a certain person existed and/or was even a hero, saint or martyr; while a local saint is renowned in a very small geographic area (a few parishes) and have a significant impact in the local area. With this study on Belgian local saints, he distinguished four types of saints’ relics:
Relics from historical saints: the remains were from historical people but not saints or martyrs. There is a high possibility that the remains belong to the person attested.
Relics from “founding fathers” saints: the story behind the remains is completely fake (oral traditions) and the remains were perhaps from people who were probably important.
Relics from political and economic saints: relics serve(d) as political or economic purpose, they have a geo political implication. The remains studied were old.
Relics specially made for the trade: the story behind them is completely fake and the relics doesn’t have to do with the saints.
Prof. van Strydonck has published the book “Relieken, echt of vals?” (Davidsfonds/Leuven, 2006).
Images: (Top) Prof. van Strydonck delivering his talk and (below) post-lecture discussion.