A hidden treasure appears in the walls of the Cathedral of Mexico during the restoration of the building

A hidden treasure appears in the walls of the Cathedral of Mexico during the restoration of the building
Workers during restoration work on the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City.Culture Secretariat

One day at the end of December, after 10 o’clock in the morning, a mud slab from the main dome in Metropolitan Cathedral He got out of Mexico and made his first find: a pencil box that fit in the palm of a restorer’s hand and had an inscription in Latin. Inside, there was a painting representing a section of Bible It was painted in color on parchment. Workers continued to remove the tiles for eight hours, resulting in 22 old, dull metal boxes with similar white spots to the first. The discovery occurred during the restoration of the cathedral It was “moderately” damaged in the 2017 earthquake It needs constant maintenance. When finished, the workers knew they had valuables in their hands.

Arturo Ballandros, Director of Cultural Heritage Sites and Monuments at the Mexican Ministry of Culture, spoke Friday at the conference. morning government to communicate discoveries. “It’s very exciting,” Andross celebrated. The official stressed that this type of discovery occurs “commonly” when the effects of “antiquity and this history” are interfered with. Since the 2017 earthquake, 1,579 temples have been restored, according to Balandros. He said, “According to the hypothesis of researchers and theologians of the cathedral, these boxes contain images of saints who spread cloaks over the cathedral complex in our city.”

Objects are found in chests hidden in the dome of the cathedral.
Objects are found in chests hidden in the dome of the cathedral.Culture Secretariat

The boxes appeared in small, rectangular, shallow niches found in the cathedral’s lantern, that is, the tubular space that terminates the central dome of the religious building and lets in light and air. Maricarmen Castro, restoration coordinator at the National Institute of Anthropology and History, told EL PAÍS that they worked for 10 days on “forced walks” to analyze the objects. “It was a unique opportunity,” says the restorer. Although experts can’t say who put them there when, they estimate that it may have been in the 17th or 18th century to protect the building. For this reason, when the boxes were removed from the niches for study, the dean ordered that a cross and a religious picture be placed in the place of each one “for continued protection.”

Some of the 23 chests contain Latin inscriptions referring to saints or divine beings. For example, in one of them a prayer is written to Jesus of Nazareth to ask for protection and mercy: Jesus Nazarenus rex judaeorum. Titulus triumphalis defends ab omnibus malis. Sancte deu, Sancte Fortis, Sancte Immortalis Miserere Nobis. On the other hand, others do not have any kind of references that would allow us to know what is inside. Opening them up, the specialists found plaques, wooden crosses and palms, or fragments likely composed of clay and wax medallions. Some were in a good state of preservation, but others, as evidenced by photographs released by Ministry of Culture, damaged by moisture, incomplete or broken. One of the chests had been ransacked and had nothing in it.

Balandros pointed out that these discoveries “speak about the last period of building the cathedral.” Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico, which is located on one side of zocalo capital, over a period of 240 years, between 1573 and 1813. It was, in fact, the second cathedral to be built. The architect who started it was Claudio de Arciniega, who redrawn the plan of Salamanca Cathedral in Spain. When it was completed, the engineer in charge of the works was already Manuel Tolsa. This finished off the façade, the towers, and the dome. One of the painters interfering with the cathedral at the time “who was probably part of the Tulsa architect’s team” had already found one of the chests, the chest dedicated to Saint John the Baptist.

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The team that unearthed the boxes in December was able to find this out because inside one of them was a paper dated 1810 that appeared with the following inscription: “Severo Arceo and Nicolás Serrano, painters, and José Félix, José Sicilio and Juan García, construction workers, and Juan Flores , on the shelf, when this dome was painted, in 1810, they found the relics of His Holiness Juan Bautista. I pray for their souls for God’s sake. Archbishop Don Francisco Xavier de Lisana y Beaumont was viceroy, Fernando VII ruled Spain and Napoleon Bonaparte in France. Restorers believe that this box “was the only one that was found and opened that year”.

A note from 1810 was found in one of the chests.
A note from 1810 was found in one of the chests.Culture Secretariat

After discovery and analysis by experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History, authorities expect the boxes to return “to their original location” in the central dome lantern at the end of January. It will be returned with protective packaging that you’d prefer to keep. When they are re-integrated into the niches, the works on the cathedral, which began in 2019, will be nearing completion. Since then, care has been taken with the piles to maintain the stability of the high building on an ever-sinking ground; plants that grew in the joints of stones were removed; The electrical system and lightning rod system have been rehabilitated.

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