A scull, bits of bones, and a crown of gilt brass. Recently the holy shrine (also known as a reliquary) of King Erik den helige’s (Eric IX of Sweden or Erik the Saint) was opened for researchers, who will now examine the contents. The shrine has been stored in Uppsala Cathedral.
One of the questions researchers have is whether Erik had strong bones. Archaeological bone materials like these can provide important puzzle pieces in the research of osteoporosis and its causes. Researchers also hope that the DNA tests will give information about Erik’s origins. It has been said he was of British stock, and perhaps now we will find out. His crown is the oldest royal crown in Sweden, removed to be preserved and shown to the public during an exhibition this coming summer and fall (starting June 18 at the Uppsala Cathedral).

Erik’s reign lasted from around 1155 to 1160, when he was murdered in Uppsala by an assassin hired by people working for his rival Sverker the Elder. Swedes believed a miracle occurred at Erik’s death as a fountain was said to have sprung from the earth where his head fell after being chopped off (his skull shows traces of injury to the neck). It’s legends like these that are the basis of his sainthood; he is also said to have done much to consolidate Christianity in his realm and spread the faith to Finland. His feast day in the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is May 18, though Erik was never formally canonized by the Pope. Erik’s face is depicted in the seal of the City of Stockholm.