A group of researchers has reopened a grave in Switzerland to see if DNA tests can confirm that it contains the body of the 17th century hero and assassin Jürg Jenatsch. It is believed that Jenatsch was buried under the flagstones of the Chur Cathedral (Switzerland). In 1959, the anthropologist Erik Hug exhumed a body, which he identified as Jenatsch's on the basis of the clothes he was wearing and the large bruise on his skull.
Now archaeologists have unearthed him again, with the intention of identifying him once and for all with this new technique. They are also studying his skull with the help of a scanner at the local hospital, hoping to reconstruct his face and compare it to paintings by the famous Jenatsch of the time.
Jenatsch's history is full of death and goes back to the Thirty Years War. Graubünden, now a Swiss canton, was an independent republic and was in constant conflict between Protestants and Catholics to dominate Europe. There appears Jürg (also called Jörg, or Gieri) Jenatsch - a Protestant preacher, a skilled swordsman, and a mass leader.
In one of his bloodiest anecdotes It is said that he led a group of men who stormed the castle of Pompeis Planta, a nobleman who was the leader of the party in favor of the Austrians. According to this story, Plant knew they were going to catch him, so he hid in the fireplace, not knowing that he would be betrayed by the curious behavior of his dog. The nobleman was dragged away by the assailants and killed on the spot. Legend has it that Jenatsch finished him off with a huge ax.
Later, the preacher switched sides and allied himself with the Catholics after abandoning the Protestant belief. This was inexcusable for some of his former colleagues. One night at the carnival in 1639, in a tavern in Chur, he was surrounded by several masked men who attacked him and took his life. According to legend, his death came with the same ax that years before he had used to kill Planta. His body was quickly buried in the Chur Cathedral a day later.
The archeologist Manuel Janosa, who leads the renewed investigation of the body claims that he became interested in "the idea of studying DNA" when he learned that there were parts of his clothing that contained "blood stains”. To carry out the study, he contacted descendants of Jenatsch's family who voluntarily gave their DNA samples.
However, the blood collected from the corpse's clothing is not enough to create a genetic profile, so it has had to be exhumed again. Janosa explains that his investigation team is trying to collect as much evidence as possible to assign an identity to the deceased. If in the end they can't get a DNA match, they will have to "rely on other evidence."
Randolph Head is an American historian of Swiss descent who has written a book about the famous character entitled: "Jenatsch's ax”. For him, Jenatsch was “a man of his time”. He maintains that his time was characterized "by instability and a crisis of identities" but his personality was "in tune with those times, allowing him to advance both economically and socially, in ways that he could not have done in a quieter time”.
The American historian discards any possible doubts about the identity of the body unearthed in Chur: “I see no reason to doubt that the bones unearthed in 1959 were Jenatsch's. The wounds on his skull and body agree with the witnesses of his time quite clearly”.
But nevertheless, yes it speaks of a mystery to be revealed: “The mystery that remains open is not who is buried in Jenatsch's grave, but who killed Jenatsch. And that subject who did it, we can try to guess it but for historical research it will be impossible to find irrefutable evidence of it”.
The rector of Coria Cathedral, Reverend Harald Eichhorn, comments that he assumes “What is Jenatsch from the grave", Since all researchers and historians"they have always been safe”. On Jenatsch, he maintains: “He was a very versatile figure. A man of extremes. A politician, a clergyman, a soldier, and even a terrorist. But he is an important figure in Graubünden, as much as William Tell for the rest of Switzerland.”. Asked whether Jenatsch deserves to be buried in the cathedral, Eichhorn explains that there is “many kinds of dead buried" and that, "if he's been buried that long, it's best to let him rest in peace”.
Passionate about History, he has a degree in Journalism and Audiovisual Communication. Since he was a child he loved history and ended up exploring the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries above all.