While preserving an 18th century wooden statue of Jesus, a team of Spanish restorers was surprised to discover a time capsule hidden within the hollowed-out arse portion of the carving. Written by a Catholic chaplain, the detailed document contains economic, political, and cultural information about the time period.
The Madrid-based Da Vinci Restauro team uncovered the two handwritten pages when detaching a removable portion of the statue’s buttocks. Called “Cristo del Miserere,” the wooden statue of Jesus belongs to the Church of Santa Águeda in Sotillo de la Ribera, Spain. The document was signed in 1777 by a Spanish Priest named Joaquín Mínguez, chaplain of the Cathedral of the Burgo de Osma.
As reported by the EFE Agency, historian Efrén Arroyo said that, “although it is usual for many sculptures to be hollow, it is not so much to find in his interior some documents written by hand.” Arroyo, who’s also a member of the Holy Week Brotherhood of Sotillo de la Ribera, suspects that Mínguez’s intention was for the document to remain hidden for hundreds of years. To that end, the document serves as a kind of time capsule, making mention of the artist behind the statue and providing detailed information about the era.
The document honors the memory of the sculptor, Manuel Bal, who Mínguez describes as a “natural scholar of San Bernardo de Yagüe and neighbor in Campillo, both of this Bishopric of Osma.” Bal carved five other statues, specifically the saints Águeda, Santiago, Millán, Jerónimo, and Juan, according to the document.
Mínguez also cites various events of the time, and names the Aldermen of King Charles III (who reigned from 1759-1788). He makes mention of crops that were cultivated in the region, including harvests of wheat, rye, barley, and oats. He made a special reference to wine from the Aranda region, saying “its harvest is very numerous for many years, so much that in this time it has been seen, for not taking in the cellars, spilling much wine.” The chaplain describes common blights of the time, namely malaria and typhoid fever, while describing popular forms of entertainment, such “cards, ball, bald, bar and other puerile [i.e. silly] games.”
The Da Vinci Restauro team has sent the original document to the the archives of the Archbishopric of Burgos, where other documents of the Parish Archives of Sotillo de la Ribera are kept. A copy of the documents were produced and placed back inside the statue in respect for Joaquín Mínguez’s intentions. [EFE Agency & Da Vinci Restauro via ScienceAlert]