Mummy found in Basel church is related to Boris Johnson

Anna Catharina Bischoff was found buried in a family tomb in Basel's Barfüsser church. Mercury allowed her body to be preserved. Keystone

A mummified corpse found buried in a Basel church is a relative of British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, scientific testing has revealed. 

This content was published on January 25, 2018 - 14:13
SDA-ATS/SRF/vdv

The body is that of 67-year-old Anna Catharina Bischoff, who was born in 1719 in Strasbourg, France, and died in 1787 in Basel. She is believed to be Johnson’s great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandmother, according to researchers who had been testing her body since 2015 and announced their findings on Thursday. 

The mummy was buried in the family tomb of Isaak Bischoff, a hospital director in 17th-century Basel, in the city’s Barfüsser church. Its identity had eluded researchers for decades.

+ Basel police archives reveal lives of past city residents

Anna Bischoff is believed to have died of mercury poisoning, a common treatment for syphilis in her time. The high concentration of mercury in her body is what preserved it enough for it to be exhumed and studied. 

How Anna Catharina Bischoff may have looked. SRF

The link to Johnson was established after researchers traced Anna Bischoff’s family tree using DNA extracted from her corpse. They discovered she was a descendent of Johann Froben, a printer in Basel at the beginning of the 16th century. Bischoff had seven children, two of whom reached adulthood, and one of her daughters married a baron by the name of Pfeffel von Kriegelstein. That baron is part of a direct line of descendants in Johnson’s family tree.

Referring to the fact that Anna Bischoff is believed to have served as a nurse to syphilis patients, Johnson tweeted upon learning of the link, "Very excited to hear about my late great grand 'mummy' - a pioneer in sexual health care. Very proud."

The UK Foreign Secretary is related to Anna Bischoff through the lineage of his father, Stanley Johnson, according to the BBC.

Here's how Stanley Johnson reacted to the news:


This article was automatically imported from our old content management system. If you see any display errors, please let us know: community-feedback@swissinfo.ch

Share this story