NINE bodies left languishing in a storeroom for decades will finally be laid to rest tomorrow.
Some of the skeletons, uncovered at Eynsham Abbey in an archaeological dig, have waited more than 400 years for a proper burial.
They were discovered in the late 1980s and early 1990s and kept in a storeroom at the Oxfordshire Museum’s Resource Centre in Standlake.
That was until their existence was discovered by a local priest, who decided to bring them back and return them to their rightful home.
Father Martin Flatman, of St Peter’s Church, in Abbey Street, Eynsham, said: “When I found out these bodies were still in a storeroom I felt very strongly that they should be reverently buried.
“I am particularly delighted that the three who were buried secretly will get a funeral.”
The bodies are of five medieval monks and a family of two males and two females, believed to have been Catholics, dating to the post-Reformation period.
It is believed they were buried in secret as they refused to give up their Catholic faith and receive a Protestant funeral.
They were discovered during a three-year archaeological dig which started on the site in 1989.
Eynsham Abbey was one of the last abbeys to be founded by the Saxon king Aethelred and was occupied for hundreds of years.
The buildings disappeared after the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII in the 16th century.
Fr Flatman said: “This is going to be a celebration of the fact we are finally returning these bodies to their home.
“Members of the public, anyone who is interested, are very welcome.”
The service at 11am will include a requiem mass and singers performing a Gregorian chant.
Two coffins have been produced for the bodies to be buried in. After the service the congregation will process into the churchyard for the burial.
The mass will be celebrated by the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Bernard Longley, and attended by archaeologists who studied the bodies, Simon Underdown and Nicola Scott.
Fr Flatman said: “I am very much looking forward to this and would love the chance to celebrate this occasion with as many people as possible.”