Just when you think you’ve found everything, a piece of unexpected human history pops up. This time, it was several relics found in the walls of Mexico City’s Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral. In December of 2022, workers found boxes while restoring the interior of the building, which is now over two hundred years old.
The building was constructed in a centuries’ long process, ranging from 1573 to 1813. Part of the reason construction took so long was the soft subsoil underneath caused the building to start sinking. It was officially opened in 1813, but these relics were found earlier than that by those who were working on the finishing touches of the building.
Lead containers, roughly the size of an Altoids box, were discovered during the most recent work. Some had written inscriptions, dedicating the relics to various saints. One box contained a handwritten note left by someone who helped build the cathedral in 1810. The note begged whoever found the boxes to “pray for their soul.” Not sure if that’s a bad omen, but probably a good reason to put it back where they found it.
The boxes also contained religious inscriptions and other relics, like small paintings, wood and palm crosses. All of the niches where the boxes were found were covered with clay panels, and hidden under plaster. The discovery was found at the base of the cathedral’s lantern, the slim skylight that sits on top of the dome. The placement was probably to protect the cathedral from outside tampering. One example of another cathedral doing this is back in 2008 when researchers found a capsule from 1791 which was laid in a bell tower to protect it from lightning.
Depending on the saint the boxes were dedicated to in the Mexico City cathedral, it could mean a number of things relating to that particular saint.
The National Institute of Anthropology is in the process of cataloging the boxes and their contents, and will place them back where they were found when they’ve finished.