Een schedelreliek uit de groep van de heilige Ursula en de elfduizend maagden in de Sint-Pantaleonkerk van Kerniel: context en materiaal-technische studies
Eleven thousand virgins
cult of saints
Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA)
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In 2014, a skull relic was discovered in a side altar in St. Pantaleon’s Church in Kerniel. A description, sewn to the textile, indicates that it is a skull from the cult of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins. The relic casing is very similar to that of the skull relic in the nearby Saint Odulphus Church in Borgloon. The relationship can be demonstrated not only visually but also by radiocarbon dating. The white linen around both skulls dates from the same period, somewhere between 1480 and 1670 AD. The white linen, the red damask and the red silk velvet were apparently applied around both skulls during the same period. However, the silk velvet for the skull in Kerniel is younger: 1680-1930 AD. Furthermore, analysis of the dyes indicates the use of Mexican cochineal. It is not inconceivable that the silk velvet of the skull in Kerniel became worn or damaged over the centuries and was replaced. The 14C-analysis of the skulls does not indicate a dating typical for relics of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins. The dating of the textile is also different from the skull relics previously examined at KIK-IRPA. This begs the question of whether the skull was perhaps not attributed to the Eleven Thousand Virgins at the time of its arrival in Kerniel. And whether an explanation for the unusual dating should not rather be sought in the history of Borgloon. The city and its church were besieged and looted several times over the centuries, which could imply the loss of relics. An emergency search for (skull) relics in order to be able to continue a cult could explain the deviating datings of the skulls and textile.
Jeroen Reyniers, Mathieu Boudin, KatrienIna Houbey, Van den Berghe, "Een schedelreliek uit de groep van de heilige Ursula en de elfduizend maagden in de Sint-Pantaleonkerk van Kerniel : context en materiaal-technische studies", Bulletin KIK-IRPA 36 (2019-2020), pp. 39-55