Bones of saint king of Hungary identified in ossuary jumble

Archaeologists have identified the bones of Saint Ladislaus, 11th century King of Hungary, amidst a jumble of bones from more than 900 individuals, stored in an ossuary in Székesfehérvár, central Hungary. This makes him the only known saint to have relics that are scientifically confirmed as his osteological remains.

Now on the grounds of an early 20th century architectural fantasy dubbed Bory Castle, the ossuary was connected to the city’s basilica whose remains are open to castle visitors as the Medieval Ruin Garden. The basilica was the heart of the capital of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary. Thirty-seven kings were crowned there and 15 of them buried there. The crown jewels of Hungary were kept there. The Holy Crown of Hungary was kept there. The literal throne of Hungary was kept there. The cathedral was pillaged by invading Ottoman forces in 1543 and the royal graves plundered. Only the tombs of King Béla III (r. 1172-1196) and his first queen consort, Anna of Antioch, were left undisturbed.

Researchers from the University of Szeged extracted DNA samples for 400 bone remains and compared them to DNA they had previously recovered from the remains of King Béla III. The DNA testing matched the bones of Saint King Ladislaus to those of his descendant from five generations later.

King Ladislaus I ruled Hungary from 1077 until his death in 1095. He was a warrior king, stabilizing a country riven by religious and political conflict in the wake of King Stephen I’s attempt to Christianize the kingdom in the beginning of the 11th century. He finished the job Stephen had started, forcibly suppressing traditional religious practices and firmly establishing Christianity as the sole religion of the realm. When he conquered Croatia, he did the same there.

A supporter of the Papacy in the Investiture Conflict between Pope and Holy Roman Emperor, the King founded monasteries and churches, and directed the establishment and operation of bishoprics in all of his territories. He was getting ready to go on crusade when he died. For his efforts in spreading Christianity both at sword-point and as an effective administrator, he was canonized by Pope Celestine III in 1192. Because he was born and raised in Krakow after his father, King Bela I, was forced by a rebellion to flee Hungary, Ladislaus would become the patron saint of Poles living in Hungary.

The DNA study of the ossuary remains also revealed the bones of Andrew II of Hungary, son of Béla III and Anna of Antioch. They plan to identify even more Hungarian royals using a DNA sample from John Corvinus (1473-1504), natural son of King Matthias (1443-1490) and his mistress, and from the skull of Mary of Hungary, Queen of Naples (ca. 1257-1323).

The ultimate goal is to recover the bones of royal family members and rebury them in marked graves. A secondary goal is to make facial reconstructions of the kings of Hungary. All of the skulls recovered from the ossuary have been scanned for that purpose. Combined with DNA information on hair/eye color, the reconstructed faces will then be made available to view through VR devices.

4 thoughts on “Bones of saint king of Hungary identified in ossuary jumble

  1. What an extraordinary effort! I wonder if same techniques could be used to disentangle the bones of French kings et al disposed into an ossuary after their tombs were broken into during the Revolution?

  2. :hattip: mitocondrial DNA testing is going to make all humanity learn that race is a social construct and not reality. We are all separate species of human, 5 at last count, Out of africa is a dead white mans burden

  3. Around 1000AD their kingdom was established.

    75 years earlier, however, the Hungarians had given ‘Henry the Fowler’ as king of East Francia reason to make arrangements for new castles and ringwalls to be built (cf. ‘Res gestae saxonicae’). In some cases, even new fortified towns were built, and a new elite cavalry force was established:

    “…ex agrariis militibus nonum quemque eligens in urbibus habitare fecit, ut ceteris confamiliaribus suis octo habitacula extrueret, frugum omnium tertiam partem exciperet servaretque. Caeteri vero octo seminarent et meterent frugesque colligerent nono et suis eas locis reconderent. Concilia et omnes conventus atque convivia in urbibus voluit celebrari….”

    “…Every 9th of the king’s rural warriors shall live in a walled town and he shall arrange housing for his remaining eight peers. He shall keep a third of all the harvest. His eight buddies shall plant, harvest and supply him, but also take shelter in those places. Also, councils, convents and trade shall only take place within those erected ringwalls…”


    PS: Matt, I am not so sure that your theory on 5 separate species of humans and dead “white” men will lead you anywhere. I do, on the other hand, have a Caribbean friend in the US –who is married to someone from the Caucasus– and when he had “his DNA tested”, was told that he was “Caucasian” 😮

  4. It kind of frustrates me that Cistercian nuns were not ok with Violante’s body to be examined by the Hungarian Goverment when they paid to fix her tomb. This would be really neat to see how much dna says about her health and haplogroup as well as what she may have looked like. I would like to know what her cause of death was because honestly I love knowing about her. She is my ancestor through two of her daughters in Spain. But also what did she actually look like when shed died is something else I would like to see as well. I guess if we want we can probably push the Spanish goverment to examine her body, they have been doing that lately. Its been neat to hear about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.