A vial of blood taken from Pope John Paul II days before he died will go on display at the Vatican during his beatification on Sunday 1 May. The vial, considered to be a first-degree relic by Cardinal Dziwisz, the late pope’s private secretary, will be placed in a precious reliquary for the occasion. More than 50 heads of state will attend the beatification, which will be led by the current pope, Benedict XVI. Thousands of pilgrims are also expected to travel to Rome to honour John Paul II who died in 2005 after serving for 27 years as pope. The beatification, which is one step before full sainthood, will take place following confirmation by Vatican authorities that the pope performed a miracle by curing a French nun during his papacy.
Archaeologists in Northumberland have discovered an Anglo-Saxon hall underneath the inner courtyard of Bamburgh Castle. The discovery happened after the experts invited Channel 4’s Time Team to help them with their project. Before the hall was unearthed little was known about the Anglo-Saxon Bamburgh Castle because of the impressive Norman castle built on top of it in c.1120. The hall is believed to have been built in the 6th century when the Bernician Kings lived on the site. You can read more about Time Team‘s involvement in the recent discovery at the Channel 4 website.
Archaeologists in Guatemala claim to have discovered the rough dimensions of nearly 100 buildings in the ancient Maya city of Holtun, a settlement that has been hidden for centuries under rainforest. GPS and electronic distance-measurement technology enabled researchers to locate a seven-storey-tall pyramid and an astronomical observatory. It is hoped that the ancient city, which could date back to around 600 BC, will shed light on the history of daily life in smaller towns outside the main Maya metropolitan areas.
An 18th-century coach driver’s map of London, which is the equivalent to a modern-day tube map, has been found in the attic of a Staffordshire house. The hackney coach map, which dates back to 1785, shows the routes and fares that would have been taken by the 350 or so coaches of the era. A handwritten note on the map reveals that passengers could expect to pay just sixpence every half a mile for a bumpy ride around the cobbled capital. The rare find is expected to make £200 at auction and provides a fascinating insight into London’s early transport system.
The future of an historic West Yorkshire railway bridge, which featured in the 1970 film The Railway Children, has been secured by a cash grant. The bridge had been damaged by severe winter frosts and would not have been able to continue to support trains without public donations and private grants paying for the vital repairs. Grants were sourced from the South Pennines Leader Fund, Welcome to Yorkshire organisation and the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway Charitable Trust, and will ensure that the bridge remains in service for many years to come.
Following the excavation of the wreck of a Mosquito MM244 near Inverness last year, archaeologists have been given the go-ahead to survey nine more Second World War aircraft crash sites across Scotland. Any notable items found, such as the oxygen bottle discovered at the site of the Mosquito, will be given to the University of Glasgow. Sites that the Ministry of Defence have given permission to excavate include a US B-17 Flying Fortress, which crashed on Skye when it was flying from Iceland to London on its way to Italy.
After a 10-year search, staff at Hestercombe Gardens in Somerset have discovered the location of a Georgian building detailed on an Ordnance Survey map printed in 1886. The 250-year-old building is believed to have been used as a sheltered seating area from which visitors could enjoy the views over the Vale of Taunton. The building is one of nine Georgian ‘seats’ discovered at the site and will help show how late 18th and early 19th-century visitors viewed the gardens.
A first edition King James Bible has been discovered in a Cambridge church after it was hidden away and forgotten about by the staff. The valuable Bible was donated to Great St Mary’s University Church in 1925 and was stored away in an old chest in the church. It dates back to 1611, several years after King James VI of Scotland (James I of England) ordered a new translation of the Bible, which subsequently became the official Bible of the Church of England. To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the introduction of the King James Bible, church staff have organised a public reading of the whole book, which will be launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury.