St. Martin of Tours in Louisville, Kentucky was built in 1854. Few people known that the skeletal remain of Saints Bonosa and Magnus have been on display here since 1902.
Emperor Diocletian put Magnus, a Roman centurion, and Bonosa, a virgin, to death in the third century A.D. during the persecution of Christians.
The martyrs’ remains were interred in the catacombs of Pontiani, Italy, and rested there until 1700, when the Cardinal-Custodian of Holy Relics entrusted them to the Cistercian Nuns of Agnani, near Rome. The relics were venerated there for nearly two centuries, until the Italian government confiscated the monastery and forced the Sisters to leave.
When the Italian government seized the church in Agnani, Pope Leo XIII gave the relics to St. Martin of Tours in Louisville at the request of Msgr. Francis Zabler, the priest of church of St. Martin of Tours at the time. The diocese received the bones in 1902, and the body of each saint was placed in a glass reliquary on each side of the altar, St. Bonosa on the left and St. Magnus on the right.
When St. Martin’s needed to refurbish the side altars of the church in 2012, the parish decided to repair the glass sarcophagi as well. The parish also chose to have the bones examined since it didn’t have an official history of the remains.
When Philip DiBlasi, an archeologist from the University of Louisville, heard about this he volunteered to do the forensic analysis of the bones. He soon found that the features of the skeletal remains corresponded to historical accounts of the saints.
As DiBlasi unwrapped St. Magnus’ bones he discovered that the skeleton was only about 45% complete and most of the bones were fragmented. The cranium was intact, but the mandible was missing. According to his analysis, the remains belonged to man of mixed ancestry, mostly Caucasian with some Mediterranean/African characteristics, who was between 45 and 50 years old when he died.
Then DiBlasi moved on to St. Bonosa’s remains, and he was pleasantly surprised to find that her skeleton was 95% complete, and both the skull and pelvis were present. After examining the remains, he found that the bones belonged to a woman of Caucasian ancestry who was about 24 years old when she died, and stood between 5’ and 5’6” tall. He also found squatting facets at the bottom of her leg bones (tibia) and foot bones (talus) and indications that she was right-handed.
The relics of Saints Bonosa and Magnus were wrapped in robes and translated to the repaired reliquaries during a ceremony on September 9th, 2012.
Source - Strange Remains
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by Marlene Pardo Pellicer