|Many of the artifacts are linked to Michael Ramsey, archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1974. (Leslie Priest/ Associated Press)|
LONDON - A fresh mystery is gripping Britain’s religious community: Just how did a treasure trove of rare medallions and coins collected by a former archbishop of Canterbury end up at the bottom of the River Wear?
The coins, medals, goblets, and other religious items were found by two divers, Gary and Trevor Bankhead, in the frigid, murky river waters that loop around Durham Cathedral, a Norman-style classic.
Research shows many of the artifacts are linked to the late Michael Ramsey, a former archbishop of Canterbury with longtime ties to Durham, a city 280 miles north of London where he served as bishop and spent some of his retirement years before his death in 1988.
The find was revealed yesterday by cathedral officials - who believe the items may have been robbed from Ramsey - and by the Bankhead brothers, two intrepid amateur divers who collected the unusual items during a series of dives over the past three years.
A statement posted on the cathedral’s website indicated that the brothers had found about 300 artifacts, including some of archeological significance.
“Some of the artifacts appear to have close links to Archbishop Michael Ramsey, who retired to Durham in 1974,’’ the statement read. “These include medals and medallions presented to him during his work and travels as archbishop of Canterbury. There is a silver trowel presented to the archbishop on the occasion of his laying of the foundation stone for a new church in India. Other items include a copper and enamel icon.’’
In addition, a gold coin apparently given to Ramsey by a Japanese Buddhist leader was found, along with a Russian icon and precious medals that may have been given to Ramsey when he met Pope Paul VI in Rome in 1966.
Ramsey was archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1974 and met many senior religious figures and world leaders during that time.
Cathedral officials believe the items may have been stolen from Ramsey after he retired to Durham.