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Message From the Past Found Inside Spanish Statue of Jesus

A local chaplain wanted people from the future to know what crops his region grew, what games they played and what diseases they suffered

smithsonian.com

Art restorers in Spain recently found a message from the past in a most unusual place: the rear end of a statue of Jesus.

As Michelle Starr at ScienceAlert reports, technicians from Da Vinci Restauro, a restoration company, had removed the wooden sculpture from the church of Santa Águeda in Sotillo de la Ribera for restoration when they came across the panel including Jesus’ rear loin cloth. Inside the hollow statue they found two hand-written pieces of paper curled up written on both sides.

It turned out to be a message from Joaquín Mínguez, a chaplain of the Cathedral of the Burgo de Osma, who penned the message in 1777.

“Although it is usual for many sculptures to be hollow it is not usual to find handwritten documents inside," Efrén Arroyo, historian and member of the Holy Week Brotherhood of Sotillo de la Ribera, tells the news agency EFE.

The document gives praise to the sculptor of the statue, Manuel Bal, who also produced similar figures of saints Águeda, Santiago, Millán, Jerónimo, and Juan for the church. George Dvorsky at Gizmodo reports that Mínguez then goes on to name the current king, Charles III, as well as local alderman. He talks about the crops grown in the region, the local wine, talks about illnesses like malaria and typhoid as well as amusements that the people enjoy including cards and ball games.

Dvorksy reports that the original documents were sent to Parish archives for preservation, but restorers made a copy of the letter and reinserted it in the statue's derriere so that future restorers can discover Mínguez’s missive from the past as well.

This isn’t the first unusual thing art restorers have found in their subjects. Not to mention all the hidden artworks they've found in recent years using X-rays, Starr reports that in 2015 researchers found the 1,000-year-old body of a monk inside a Chinese Buddha statue. Just last month, restorationists found a grasshopper stuck in the paint of a van Gogh painting. And in 2014 researchers found that a statue of Jesus in Mexico had a mouth full of real human teeth

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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