Five lead coffins found in a French convent

Five lead coffins found in a French convent

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Between 2011 and 2013, a team from the National Institute for Preventive Archaeological Research has carried out an excavation, in collaboration with the State, in the Jacobin Convent. Two years later, ongoing investigations have yielded new discoveries.

The Jacobin Convent was built in 1369, after the War of Succession, signaling the victory of Juan IV de Montfort, Duke of Brittany, over Carlos de Blois. From the 15th to the 17th century, the place was an important place for pilgrimages and burials, proof of the latter are the 800 tombs that have been discovered by archaeologists, including five lead coffins. One of them contained a very well preserved corpse, and its study provides little-known evidence of elite burial practices during the 17th century.

The five lead coffins dating from the 17th century, were accompanied by heart-shaped reliquaries. Four of the coffins, discovered in the church choir, contained relatively well-preserved skeletons.

The five lead reliquaries that accompanied the coffins in the Jacobin Convent constituted a unique group of these objects in Europe. All contained a heart and four of them had inscriptions that revealed the identity of the deceased. Some of the hearts were wrapped in bandages and embalmed with plant materials. An analysis of the fabrics, plant species and some organs have provided information on the embalming process.

Louise de Quengo, Miss de Brefeillac.

In the cellar of the Saint-Joseph Chapel, the fifth coffin contained an exceptionally well-preserved body, Louise de Quengo's. This person has been identified thanks to the inscriptions on the reliquary of the heart of her husband, Toussaint de Perrien, who died in 1649.

To limit as much as possible any loss of information due to the decomposition of the body, the study has been carried out in collaboration with the Anthropological Molecular Laboratory of the University of Toulouse and the city's medical-legal service.

After scanning the entire body, the autopsy has revealed the good health of Louise de Quengo and both biologists and geneticists debate whether the cause of death could be an infection.

These studies contribute to expanding the information available on the funeral practices of that time, as well as the History of Science and Medicine, since the extraction of the heart of the deceased has revealed a great mastery of the medical practices of operation.

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