Mystery of saint with three legs

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The Independent Online
Scientists examining the relics of a 7th-century saint venerated in Birmingham have discovered that his casket contains three legs rather than the customary two.

Radio-carbon dating, however, has established that five of the six bones in the reliquary of St Chad may well be genuine, since they date form the 6th or 7th century; one of the bones which Catholics have revered for 1,300 years is a century or two older than the rest. The Oxford archaeologist who carried out the test believes that that bones from three bodies were jumbled together when the saint was reburied.

St Chad, or Ceadd, who died in 672, was the first Bishop of Mercia, with his seat in Lichfield, where he was buried. He had been, briefly, Archbishop of York, before he was removed from the post by St Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury. His bones had been moved to a new church in 700 and were kept in Lichfield Cathedral until the Reformation, when Henry VIII abolished the cult of relics.

St Chad's brother, Cedd, was also a saint and founded a monastery where St Chad was later abbot. On hearing the news of St Chad's many-legged state, one distinguished Catholic historian joked that the extra leg might belong to St Cedd.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Maurice Couve de Murville, has authorised continued devotion to the relics - provided it is directed at all the bones equally.

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