Oldest time capsule in Europe found hidden in church spire
The oldest time capsule ever discovered in Europe and equal in age to the oldest in the world has been discovered in Lower Silesia.
Several days ago, workers carrying out repair work on the former evangelist church in the small town of Ziębice discovered a sealed copper canister along with books and papers dating back to the 18th century.
The sensational find was made when the seven-metre spire was dismantled and the small globe that sits on top of the spire’s dome was opened. The globe had several bullet holes, probably made by Red Army soldiers as they advanced through the region in 1945.
Excited officials and local historians gathered in the town’s council offices yesterday to open the time-grizzled capsule.
What they discovered exceeded their expectations. Dates on the papers that emerged from the mottled canister confirmed that the time capsule was placed in the upper reaches of the church when it was first built in 1797.
This makes the time capsule the oldest ever found in Europe and dates it close to the oldest in the world from 1795.
Ziębice mayor Mariusz Szpilarewicz said: “All indications are that it may be one of the oldest time capsules found in the world.
“The oldest capsule in the world dates back to the 18th century and was discovered in Boston, USA. Our capsule is probably two years younger than the Boston one.”
Perhaps more surprising was that the creamy-white papers were in pristine condition, virtually untouched by the ravages of time.
Summarising what was found, deputy mayor Małgorzata Wołczyk told TFN: “Documents relating to the construction of the church were found; we have the names of people involved in the construction, probably donors."
One of the papers was a charming personal note from two women who donated money for the building of the church.
The documents were written in German as the town was called Münsterberg in 1797 and was at that time part of the Kingdom of Prussia.
Alongside the canister, documents and photographs were found dating to 1902-1903. These are in a severely damaged condition and probably date from when the church was renovated.
It is likely that the original canister was discovered and local church bosses wanted to add mementos from their own time.
They include a newspaper Münsterberger Zeitung dated 20 August 1902 and evangelical prayer books.
The coins in the canister were probably added to help later generations date the capsule in the event that the papers were destroyed.
“These people wanted to tell us: we were here, we put our heart and life into this, and now you take it over and look after what we left here,” Marek Kowlaski from the Lower Silesia Heritage Conservation Office said.
The church in the which the capsule was found was built in 1797 on the site of a castle built in the 15th century. It remained unchanged until the Second World War. After the war it was used as a school and it now used as a sports hall.
Deputy mayor Małgorzata Wołczyk said that the contents of the canister need to undergo conservation work. After that they will be passed to the local museum, where they will go on display to visitors.
Suggestions have been raised that copies of the documents will be placed in a new capsule and placed in the church building so that local residents can find it again one hundred years from now.