A sarcophagus, sealed for more than 15 centuries, opened by archaeologists in a church in Chartres

A sarcophagus, sealed for more than 15 centuries, opened by archaeologists in a church in Chartres
A sarcophagus, sealed for more than 15 centuries, opened by archaeologists in a church in Chartres

In the archaeological pit dug in the heart of the religious building, exclamations were heard as the last piece of lid was removed from the tomb, revealing the silhouette of a skeleton in a state of decomposition.

According to the C’Chartres Archéologie team, which is carrying out the excavations in collaboration with a teacher and a doctoral student from Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, it is “certain that the sarcophagus has not been opened” for more than 15 centuries.


This photograph taken inside the Saint Martin-au-Val church, in Chartres on June 19, 2024, shows a sarcophagus dating from the 6th century AD, from the Merovingian era, containing a 1m85 skeleton and organic matter.

GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP

The remains of “a very important religious figure”

“Based on the location of the sarcophagus, so close to the heart of the church, we can imagine that it houses the remains of a very important religious figure in the Merovingian era,” indicated the director of the research team. archaeologists of the city of Chartres, Mathias Dupuis. A particularly symbolic hypothesis since researchers presume that “it is here that the very first bishops of Chartres would have been buried, during the 5th century”. “This is a research project around the knowledge of this church, extremely important for the history of the city, carried out by the municipality of Chartres,” recalled the director of C’Chartres Archéologie.

GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP

GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP

An ambition carried with pride by the mayor of Chartres, Jean-Pierre Gorges, who highlighted “the 50 to 60 full-time archaeologists” from whom the city has benefited for several years, “an initiative which does not exist anywhere else in France” . “We decided to create a permanent team since everywhere we dug in this city, we found historical elements,” he explained.

“The objective of this operation is to understand the origin of this symbolic church since the monument is located within the perimeter of a large Roman sanctuary founded from the 1st century AD, one of the largest known in Roman Gaul », Specified the director of C’Chartres.

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