She broke the last piece of wood from the old statue and braced herself. Palms sweat, heart racing. She knew she had hit something big.
But just when she wanted to take a closer look, her composure faltered. What if this was not found? What did she reveal?
A day like no other
It is not every day that you make a discovery of historic proportions. When the experienced art restorer Gemma Ramirez was commissioned to restore a Jesus Christ statue, she prepared for another normal working day.
When she made her way to the Spanish Church of Santa Agueda, she was completely unaware that she would have a day like no other.
A holy place
As Ramirez and her team walked down the church corridors to the statue, she took a moment to remember her ancestors. She could almost feel the time pass before her as she imagined the construction of intricately inscribed features and the domineering presence of something sacred.
But before she could turn to her colleague to comment, she nervously noticed that two candles burned out in passing.
An unsettling feeling
Ramirez is no stranger to religious sites and sacred artifacts. A seasoned art restorer who has worked on a number of ancient artifacts, she is used to being in spiritual places and on quiet lots.
However, she felt that something was wrong with this place. She just didn’t know what. Her mind searched as her feet moved forward.
The statue of Jesus, called “Cristo del Miserere”, is a wooden statue from the 18th century that was damaged a few years ago. Damage that could only be repaired by Da Vinci Restauro from Madrid, for whom the art restoration company Ramirez works.
She took one look at the statue and saw a work of art that called for help.
The old statue had taken its toll. Rusty, cracked and dirty, Ramirez and her colleague had cut out their work for her. She was taking notes when her colleague helped.
They describe the specific areas of the statue and mark their severity and the care they require for each. When she turns the statue over, she loses her grip.
A close thing
Her heart sinks as she stabilizes the statue just in time. She turns the statue on its side and traces the grinding curves and cracks of each piece of wood.
As she removes the dust from the artwork, she sneezes. Her sneezes echo eerily through the dark and empty hall. And then she remembers.
She remembers why this church feels different. Why something feels wrong. She’s been here before. Her grandmother brought her here when she was younger. She had taken her to a church service when they both had to go because of Ramirez’s sneezing.
When she remembered her past, her eyes led her to a large crack on the back of the statue. She took a closer look.
An unexpected secret
Your colleague looked too. “There’s something in there!” she squealed. Ramirez backed away at the thought of an insect infestation. It’s so common with wood artifacts that they often feed on rotting wood.
But as they both prepared to look inside, they saw something more, something that they had never expected or imagined.
Decisions decisions …
You have two options: either you can leave it, seal it hidden in the statue, never be found again, or you can open it. If they open it, they could reveal something that could rewrite history.
Should they illuminate something that was designed to remain hidden? When they leave, are they ignoring something that needs to be known and discovered? The fate of history was in their hands.
Chewing finger nails
Ramirez’s heart raced as she lifted the last piece of wood from the Jesus Christ statue. Her colleague on tiptoe by her side peered eagerly over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of the great revelation.
They really wanted to know what they found. After all, this statue hadn’t been touched in hundreds of years.
The hidden secret
Ramirez finally lifted the wooden frame to reveal her hidden secret. They both stood wide-eyed and speechless as two weathered, leather-like scrolls came into focus.
Ramirez reached out her hand carefully to take a closer look. What was it? Who could have written these ancient scrolls and why? She wanted to find out.
Those who had secretly placed the scrolls in the statue had obviously intended to withstand the ravages of time. The parchment scrolls – a thin sheet of leather known for its durability – were in legible condition.
On the other hand, if the secret message had been written on paper, it would not have lasted long. Ramirez knew the scrolls were old, but how long had they been hidden?
How old have you been
The scrolls had a yellowish tinge to them that they had developed over many years, but when Ramirez and her team discovered how old they were, their eyes widened in disbelief.
“The 18th century document appeared when we dismantled the Christ from the cross. The wood is hollow on the inside and the sculptor introduced the two [scrolls]that we found, ”Ramirez excitedly told the Daily Mail.
Although Ramirez had seen many incredible things during her time as an art restorer, she had never seen anything like it. Indeed, this discovery was absolutely unique.
After all, it is not every day that secret messages that were hidden in ancient statues emerge. What exactly was the purpose of the secret message and what did it say?
The scrolls date back to 1777 and were written by Joaquin Mínguez, a former chaplain of the Church. Mínguez writes about the culture of his time and the place where the statue was made.
He names Manuel Bal as a sculptor and comments on the economy and politics of Spain at the time. He also mentions his daily life and the harrowing elements of life during his time. The couple crouched as more details broke up.
The scrolls portrayed the Spanish economy at the time and gave a glimpse of the time, even describing what kind of food was grown in the region.
Grains such as barley, oats, rye and wheat as well as wine were produced. But then Minguez’s long-hidden secret message took a much darker turn.
A historical find
The Secret Scrolls described the grim details of diseases such as typhoid that plagued his time and explained the state of the court, with King Carlos III. Mention was made of who began his rule over Spain in 1759 and ruled for almost three decades.
He also offers information on the Spanish Inquisition, now known for its brutality.
Disease and infection
But to balance the harrowing descriptions of illness and quarreling, Miguez also shares other small details about the time, and mentions the recreational activities that people participated in, such as ball games and playing cards.
It is precisely these details of Spanish history that make this discovery a significant historical find. But first it has to be checked.
Time capsule continuation
Ramirez found a time capsule that gave her a once in a lifetime experience. She was so surprised by the discovery that she found it difficult to transfer the scrolls to another location for archiving without making replicas to honor Mínguez’s intent. She put them back in the statue with a note of her own.
“He wanted to leave a memory of their experiences in their era,” said Ramirez. And she graciously did the same. How many years will it be before the next generation rediscover this wonderful time capsule?