Named Cristo del Misere, the statue in question portrayed the crucifixion of Jesus and was taken from the church of St Águeda located in northern Spain. It was only after discovering cracks in the statue that specialists took measures to restore it.
As they placed the relic onto the workbench to start the restoration process, Da Vinci Restauro’s team realised that the hollow statue seemed to contain something. They were quick to discover that the hiding place was rather special. By removing a piece of wood located at the posterior of the statue, they came across a series of letters which had curled up and gone yellow with time.
Whilst it's common for such statues to be hollow, it is very rare to find things hidden inside them.
According to the curator's analysis, the letters are dated from 1777 and are signed by Joaquín Mínguez. Chaplain of the Burgo de Osma cathedral, he would have arranged this act with the creator of the statue, Manuel Bal. It is thought they wanted to conceal these letters to reveal to future generations what life was like at that time.
The writer, Joaquín Mínguez portrays a fairly accurate picture of economic and cultural activity at that time. The letters describe the types of crops grown in the region such as wheat, rye, oats, barley and grapes. They also mention the most common diseases such as typhoid fever and the most popular entertainment at the time, cards and ball games.
The letters also provide more general information, especially on the political climate of the time. They indicate that King Charles III was on the throne and that the Spanish court was based in Madrid. They claim that the government were evoking the Spanish Inquisition, which only ended in 1834. According to Effrén Arroyo, the nature of the letters shows that Mínguez certainly intended for this information to be used by future generations.
Other time capsules discovered by chance
This is not the first a time capsule has appeared out of nowhere. In 2014, another 113-year-old capsule was found inside the statue of a lion’s head in Boston, USA. The following year, in the basement of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a time capsule to be opened in 2957 was found.
Even though the Da Vinci Restauro team had already made some amazing discoveries, this was by far the most shocking. After examining them more carefully, the letters were sent to the Archbishop of Burgos to be archived. Copies were made and put back into the statue as a mark of respect to Joaquín Mínguez.