Britain's earliest Christian converts reburied after 1,400 years

The remains of Britain's earliest Christian converts excavated near Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland have been reburied in the crypt of St. Aidan's Church almost 1,400 years after they died.

From 1998 to 2007, the Durham University and the Bamburgh Heritage Trust dug up remains of 110 of Britain's earliest Christians from sand dunes called the Bowl Hole, which is also a Christian burial site. The remains were re-interred on June 26 after the two groups finished a joint research project, the Anglican Communion News Service reports.

A runner passes in front of Bamburgh castle in Northumberland, northern England, August 23, 2013. | Reuters/Toby Melville

Archaeologists at the Bamburgh Research Project said they had uncovered a grave cut lined with stone slabs. At that time, they realized that what they had discovered was the lost burial site at the Bowl Hole. They spent the next 15 years teaming up with Durham University to analyze the remains they had excavated, Christian Today recalls.

During the re-interment service, the remains inside zinc-lined boxes were placed in a new ossuary in Saint Aidan's Church's crypt. The researchers also said a reading and prayed in Old English.

In an interview with BBC News, Jessica Turner of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership said the final resting place of the early Christians was just fitting because they probably would have known and heard St. Aidan preach on the site.

"It is incredibly fitting and moving that the final resting place for the skeletons is in the crypt of St. Aidan's Church," said Turner. "It is tantalizing to think the some of these people could have actually heard St. Aidan preach on the same site as we know he founded his church here in 635 AD."

St. Aidan was sent to Bamburgh from Iona by King Oswald to evangelize in Northumbria. At present, only a hanging wooden beam remains to remind people of the original structure of Saint Aidan's Church. History suggests that St. Aidan died under the said beam. A simple shrine was erected to mark the spot where he died.

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