Peder Winstrup inside his coffin during thr opening of the coffin in 2014

Peder Winstrup: The Bishop of Lund

Peder Winstrup was born in 1605 in Copenhagen, and served as the Bishop of Lund, from 1638 until his death in 1679. He can be accredited with convincing King Karl X Gustav of the idea of establishing a university in Lund.

But his story and academic continuum didn’t end there.

The Unusual Preservation of Winstrup’s Body

Winstrup had been buried in Lund Cathedral for more than 300 years, and in 2012 the Church decided to move his remains from their tomb in the crypt. 

Meanwhile, information emerged during previous exhumations (yep, he had several, in 1833, in 1875, and in 1923) that the bishop’s body was unusually well preserved, and so the director of the Historical Museum, Per Karsten, saw a unique opportunity to examine the Bishop using modern scientific methods. 

With the blessing of the Cathedral, Peder Winstrup’s remains thus came to be lent to the University in September 2014, for slightly over a year of interdisciplinary investigations.

The bishop’s body was found to be naturally embalmed, and even his shroud and funerary attire were very well preserved due to the environment in the crypt and the herbs, including hops and wormwood, laid in the coffin when he was buried.

A Surprising Discovery in the Bishop’s Coffin

What surprised researchers was an object wrapped in linen, placed in the coffin with the Bishop. After having it X-rayed, they initially assumed it was a rat. Upon closer inspection they realised it was a 5–6-month-old human fetus.

Image of the foetus that was placed on the feet of the corpse.
Image of the foetus that was placed under the feet of the corpse.

“A popular belief in the 1600s held that unchristened souls could be smuggled into paradise on the heels of a holy person,” note the authors of the commemorative book Lund University Over 350 Years.

An answer to the Mystery

More than 5 years of investigations passed. The researchers compared the DNA from the Bishop and the foetus, and after ruling out a number of possible relationships they concluded that it is highly likely that the premature boy was the stillborn child of Winstrup’s son, and that would make the Bishop its grandfather.

During the investigations, Winstrup was subjected to the administration of the modern era. As the body was to be CT scanned at Skåne University Hospital in Lund, the computer system required a personal identity number, which was rapidly assigned. 

In 2014, the mummy of Bishop Peder Winstrup was placed in a CT scanner for examination.
In 2014, the mummy of Bishop Peder Winstrup was placed in a CT scanner for examination.

This will have made Winstrup the oldest Swedish citizen to have received a personal identity number!

In December 2015, Peder Winstrup’s remains were buried in the northern tower of the Cathedral.

And that’s only the third article I’ve written about dead bodies found in Sweden.

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