She took the last bit of wood away from the statue, she steadied her pace. Her hands were starting to sweat and her heart was starting to beat twice as fast. The only thing she knew at this moment was that she had found something big.
And as she was about to take a look inside, she couldn’t take it anymore. What if it was hidden for a reason? Maybe no one was supposed to find it. What had she found?
It’s not every day that you stumble upon an important historical discovery. When Gemma Ramirez, an art restorer by profession, was given the job of restoring an antiquated statue of Jesus Christ. She thought this would be a normal day on the job.
She arrived at the place the statue was being held – the Church of Santa Agueda’. She was oblivious to the fact that this day, in particular, would be one to remember for years to come.
Ramirez walked into the church with her restoration team. They walked through the aisle towards the statue. She reflected on her ancestry and could feel the passage of time as she stared at the holy statue – it was a masterpiece.
She wanted to turn to say something to one of her colleagues, but as she did two flickering candles right next to them died out. Was it a sign?
Ramirez is somewhat used to religious sights due to her job. Working for many years as an Art Restorer means she’s been able to work on many holy artifacts on spiritual grounds.
But never once did Ramirez have this feeling when on a religious site, It was eerie and she couldn’t figure out why. As she continued her movement towards the silhouette of the statue, she looked for the source of the feeling she had.
The statue is called “Cristo Del Miserere”. It’s from the 18th-century and was carved out of wood. Since it’s been damaged over the years it needed to be restored. The only people that were capable of fixing such an old statue was Ramirez’s team.
She now got a chance to look directly at the statue. It looked as if it was peering down at her, crying out for help. She knew she had to try her best to fix it up back to its former glory.
Over the years the statue had taken a bit of a beating. It had chips, rust, and dirt all over it. Ramirez and her team were about to take on a lot of work. She examined the statue in-detail while taking notes.
She noted where all of the worst of the damage was and how much work it would require to fix it. It would take a lot of care to restore this statue. She turns the statue over and feels her fingers slipping.
Her chest tightens as she regains her grip just in time. Once again, she slowly and carefully turns the statue over to see curves and cracks along the back of the statue. The wood was starting to splinter in places.
She begins to dust the statue to see finer details, then she sneezes. The sound can be heard echoing off the tall walls inside the hall. Then a memory suddenly comes to her.
Now she suddenly knows why this church doesn’t feel right, why it’s so ominous. This isn’t her first time inside this church. As a young girl, she came here with her grandmother. They both had to leave the church when she just couldn’t stop sneezing
As she reflects on the past, her eyes fall on a wide crack on the back of the statue. It’s deep and long and runs through almost the entire back. She stops what she’s doing and inspects the crack further.
Her team also started looking at the crack. “There’s something inside!” her voice broke. Ramirez immediately thought about the possibility of the statue being infested with insects. Wooden statues are prone to being fed on by insects once the woods starts to decay.
They all stood around the statue to take a look inside the crack. They all saw something that they would never have expected let alone seeing it with their own eyes.
There were two choices. They could ignore the item inside the statue and seal the crack, keeping it hidden forever. Or they could pry it open and take out the item that was hiding from them. What they might find could be something of great historical proportions.
Should they uncover something that’s been hidden for centuries? Should they ignore something that might lead to a great discovery? They had to decide what to do.
Ramirez’s heart raced as she lifted the last piece of wood from the Jesus Christ statue. Her colleague on her tippy toes by her side, eagerly peering over her shoulder to catch a glimpse of the big reveal.
They desperately wanted to know what they found. After all, this statue hadn’t been touched for hundreds of years, until now.
Ramirez finally lifted the wooden frame to reveal their hidden mystery. They both stood, wide-eyed and speechless, as two weathered, leather-like scrolls came into focus.
Carefully, Ramirez reached her hand in to take a closer look. What was it? Who could have possibly written these old scrolls and why? She was about to find out.
Whoever had secretly placed the scrolls inside the statue had obviously intended for them to withstand the ravages of time. Made from vellum — a thin sheet of leather known for its endurance — the scrolls were in readable condition.
If the secret message had, on the other hand, been written on paper, they wouldn’t have lasted for long. Ramirez knew that the scrolls were old, but just how long had they been hidden for?
The scrolls had a yellowish tinge that they had developed over many years, but when Ramirez and her team discovered just how old they were, their eyes widened in disbelief.
“The document of the 18th century appeared when we were dismantling the Christ of the cross. The wood is hollow inside, and the sculptor introduced the two [scrolls], which we have 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 quite like this. In fact, this discovery was absolutely unique.
After all, secret messages that have been secreted away in ancient statues don’t emerge every day. So, exactly what was the purpose of the secret message, and what did it say?
The scrolls date as far back as 1777 and were written by Joaquin Mínguez, a past chaplain of the church. Mínguez writes about the culture of his time and place in which the statue was made.
He names Manuel Bal as the sculptor, and comments on the economy and politics of Spain at the time. He also mentions his daily life and the harrowing elements of what life was like during his time. The pair huddled around as more details unraveled.
The scrolls detailed the Spanish economy at the time and offered some insight about the period, even describing what sort of food was being grown in the region.
Grains such as barley, oats, rye, and wheat were being produced, as well as wine. But then, Minguez’s long-hidden secret message took a much darker turn.
The secret scrolls described the grim details of illnesses like typhoid fever which plagued his time and explains the state of the court, mentioning King Carlos III, who began his rule over Spain in 1759 and ruled for almost three decades.
He also offers information about the Spanish Inquisition which is now known for its brutality.
But, as if to add some balance to the harrowing descriptions of illness and strife, Miguez also recounts other small details about the period, mentioning the leisure activities the people took part in, such as ball games and playing cards.
It’s precisely these details of Spanish history that make this discovery a significant historical find. But first, it needs to be verified.
Ramirez found a time capsule that gave her a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She felt so taken aback by the discovery that she had a hard time transferring the scrolls to another location to be archived, without creating replicas to honor Mínguez’s intention. She placed them back into the statue with a note of her own.
“He wanted to leave a memory of their experience in their epoch”, Ramirez said. And she graciously did the same. How many years will it take for the next generation to rediscover this wonderful time capsule?