London: Scientists have discovered skeletons from an Italian cathedral which they believe could be of the virgin Christian saints who were martyred in ancient Rome.
According to the scientists, they have all the evidence to suggest that the bones do belong to Chrysanthus and Daria, who were killed in 283AD for spreading Christianity.
Legend has it that the Roman empire had the celibate husband and wife killed after they converted Romans to the early religion, the Daily Mail reported.
The remains have been kept in the crypt of the cathedral in Reggio Emilia, a city in the north of Italy, since the 10th century.
The altar at the church had not been disturbed since 1651 but in 2008 when the cathedral was renovated, workers found more than 300 bones in one of the sealed crypts.
The skulls were packed inside a pair of silver-and-gold busts deep in a cathedral vault which they had been transferred to nearly 500 years ago.
Experts, led by Ezio Fulcheri from the University of Genoa, quickly descended on the crypt so that the bones could be tested and dated in what was one of the first scientific investigations into saintly relics.
Fulcheri conceded that there was no way to identify the skeletons with complete certainty but said "all of the evidence we have gathered points toward the relics having belonged to Chrysanthus and Daria."
He said: "This has been a very rare opportunity to be able to study bones and other relics that relate directly back to a legend that has been passed on for almost 2,000 years.”
"The completeness of the skeletons is also rare for martyrs of this era, implying that these relics were protected and venerated in their entirety at a very early point in
After DNA tests, the team concluded that the bones belonged to a woman probably in her 20s and man in his late teens.
Tests have showed that the bones were still fusing together at death which suggested to the experts that although both sets of bones were of skeletons, neither was fully developed.
The age of the female skeleton suggested that they were still a virgin, as Daria had been.
They believe that the couple lived a generally healthy life "with very little physical stress" before they were killed.
According to the legend, Chrysanthus was the only son of a Roman senator from Alexandria who grew up in Rome and converted to Christianity.
His father, unhappy at the move, arranged for him to marry a high priestess called Daria. But the plan backfired when Daria too embraced Christianity and the couple worked together to convert thousands more to the faith.
The couple were arrested and were buried alive in a sand mine in the city in around 283AD.