A treasure of sacred relics dating back centuries was discovered in the Cathedral

On December 30, the discovery of historical relevance emerged, during the rehabilitation works of the Metropolitan Cathedral, which suffered damages due to the 2017 earthquakes.Photo courtesy of the Federal Ministry of Culture

During the restoration work on the Metropolitan Cathedral of Mexico City, 23 niches were found inside its dome with images of saints, crosses and other relics that had been hidden there for centuries past and which, according to the director of Sites and Monuments of the Cultural Heritage, Arturo Balandrano Campos, represent a very exciting find.

They are located, he specified, in the final period of the construction of the main religious monument of the countrywhich was completed by the architect Manuel Tolsá and which, in the hypothesis of the researchers and theologians who have studied it, These boxes contain images of the saints that spread a cloak of protection to the cathedral complex of our city.

In the morning conference of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the official of the Ministry of Culture explained that a note left in 1810 by painters and masons who at that time was located in one of the niches, the one that corresponds to San Juan Bautista, they participated in the construction of the Cathedral; Others of the boxes, which are made of metal, contain writings in Latin, without any date, but they are a discovery historic around this portentous architectural work.

Balandrano Campos specified that in the effort to establish new conservation and maintenance protocols, so that in the event of an earthquake the damage is not as serious as in 2017, the Metropolitan Cathedral was attended to and an earthquake occurred. what happens when we intervene in a monument of this antiquity and this history: we find some surprises.

In the National Palace, with López Obrador as a witness, a video was exhibited that accounts for the discovery in that stately building located in the Zócalo, whose origin dates back to 1524, when Hernán Cortés laid the first stone of that cathedral raised on part of what which was the Great Temple of the Great Tenochtitlan.

It explains that on December 30 at 10:30 a.m. this discovery of historical relevance emerged, during the architectural and structural intervention works of the Metropolitan Cathedral carried out by the Ministry of Culture, through the General Directorate of Sites and Monuments of Cultural Heritage.

“When flattening work was carried out inside the drum of the lantern in the central dome, a clay tile that covered a niche facing north came loose. Inside it, a restorer found a rectangular lead box. The lid of this contained an inscription in Latin with the following text: Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews. Triumphant title protect us from all evil. Holy God, holy strong, holy immortal have mercy on us.

Along with that first finding they found four other contiguous clay tiles that covered other niches, which housed forged lead boxes with Latin inscriptions with the legends: Ste Gabriel pray for us 22 Ste Raphael pray for us 21 Ste John the Elder pray for us 20.

The contractor immediately notified the works residence about the finding, which was in charge of notifying the general director and the corresponding authorities of the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

The company executing the works continued to verify the existence of more niches. During the course of eight hours, 19 more boxes were found, all made of lead, some with inscriptions that alluded to saints or divine beings, and others with the lid engraved without date or other sign that would allow us to suppose their content.

In 1810, masons from the Tolsá team opened one of the boxes

At the end of the day, there was knowledge of the existence of 23 boxes with religious inspirations that contained different paintings, wooden and palm crosses, as well as fragments that possibly formed clay and wax medallions, the video highlighted.

It was noted that in the box belonging to San Juan Bautista a note was found referring to its discovery in 1810 by one of the painters who intervened in the Cathedral that year and who were possibly part of the team of the architect Tolsá. This box was the only one found and opened that year.

The note is as follows: Severo Arceo and Nicolas Serrano, painters, and José Félix; José Sicilio and Juan García, masons, and Juan Flores, foreman, when this dome was painted, in the year 1810, they found these relics of His Holiness Juan Bautista. And pray to God for his souls for God’s sake. The Archbishop Don Francisco Xavier de Lizana y Beaumont was viceroy, Fernando VII ruled in Spain and Napoleon Bonaparte in France.

The next step was to protect the relics, through the registration of the location, measurements and brief description of the boxes and the sealing of the niches again, totally restricting access to them with the intention of safeguarding them until the INAH specialist restorers could come. to the discovery site.

Once the INAH, through the National Coordination for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage, carried out the exploration, registration and conservation works of the contents of these patrimonial assets and of the protection boxes, it is expected that these will be returned to their original position. in the start of the canopy of the lantern of the central dome of the Cathedral of Mexico, an action that is expected to conclude at the end of January of this year.

In this regard, Balandrano Campos specified that the restoration and conservation works of the Cathedral have already finished, after the 2017 earthquakes, and all that remains is to reintegrate the 21 boxes to their site to maintain the tradition of religious protection for the cathedral complex.

The note left by the painters and masons in 1810, when they found a box, said, tells us about the importance of the historical reference of these monuments in the culture of our country.

The official also highlighted that the federal government has been very attentive to the conservation of the Metropolitan Cathedral; in a first stage An important intervention was made to maintain the stability of the monument, which we know, like all the other monuments in the Historic Center of Mexico City, gradually sink before the old lake bed that the city had.

To prevent further subsidence, the control piles were attended to to maintain the stability of its structure, all the parasitic flora that grows in the joints of the stones were removed, the entire electrical system was rehabilitated with the help of the CFE, in order to to avoid sparks and fire accidents.

Also, he added, the Cathedral’s lightning rod system was rehabilitated to protect it from lightning strikes in a storm. The works were completed and the minor damages in the two towers and in the domes of the historic building were attended to.

We are about to return to the community of the capital, and to all the visitors who come, this stately monument to make it safe and resistant to the next earthquakes that we know will come. The time boxes will continue in the dome.

By Editor

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