Italian nuclear scientists have confirmed that the relics of St. Francis of Assisi kept in the Basilica of Cortona are real.  Four Franciscan churches in central Italy claim to hold a habit of St. Francis of Assisi, the friar who founded the Franciscan order in the early 1200s.

The basilica in Assisi, that hosts famous frescoes depicting the saint’s life, claims to hold one of the habits said to have belonged to the saint. A second robe is held at the Sanctuary of La Verna near Arezzo in Tuscany; a third at the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Florence; and a fourth at the Basilica of Cortona near Arezzo.

A branch of the Franciscan order in Tuscany, which rules only the churches in Florence and Cortona were keen to see whether the two robes they held were real. They were particularly interested in the one at Cortona, said to have been brought there by Brother Elia Bombarone, the saint’s first successor.

Following a request from the Franciscan order, scientists from the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Florence conducted carbon dating test on the robe.

The researchers took a few tiny samples from the robes and used a standard technique known as accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) to measure the amount of isotope carbon-14 in the cloth.

The team found that the robe kept in the Basilica of the Holy cross was 100 years too young to have belonged to St. Francis, but the one held in the Basilica of Cortona dated to between 1155 AD and 1225 AD, roughly contemporary with the saint.

Carbon dating of a mortuary pillow, said to have belonged to St. Francis, and kept along with the robe and a Gospel book, also attributed to the saint, showed that it too was contemporary with the saint’s life.

According to Nature, palaeographic experts at the University of Siena have also confirmed that the handwriting in the Gospel Book is in the same style used during the saint’s period. (ANI)