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18th century time capsule discovered in Polish church spire

22 May 2020

Gmina Ziebice/Facebook

A coin from the capsule, and a document with the date 1797

A coin from the capsule, and a document with the date 1797

WHAT is believed to be the oldest time capsule in Europe has been discovered in the spire of an 18th-century church in Poland.

Dating from 1797, the capsule was uncovered by workers as they dismantled the seven-metre spire of a former Evangelical church in Ziebice, in the south-west of the country. A small globe that had topped the spire contained a sealed copper canister and a collection of books and papers. Bullet holes in the globe are thought to date from the Red Army’s advance in 1945.

Gmina Ziebice/FacebookItems from the capsule

When local officials and historians opened the container, they found papers in near-perfect condition relating to the construction of the church in 1797. They included the names of people involved in the construction, who are likely to have been donors, and a personal note from two women donors.

The date makes it the second-oldest time capsule in the world, just two years later than one of 1795, found in 2014 in the Massachusetts State House in Boston, hidden behind a painting of George Washington crossing the Delaware River.

The capsule also held coins from the period which were likely to have been included to help later generations date the contents in the event that the documents were destroyed. They are written in German. In 1797, the town was part of the Prussian empire, and was called Münsterberg.

Other documents found with the canister date from 1902-03, when the church was renovated. They include photos; a newspaper, Münsterberger Zeitung, dated 20 August 1902; and Evangelical prayer books. Marek Kowlaski, of the Lower Silesia Heritage Conservation Office, said: “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.”

The deputy mayor, Malgorzata Wolczyk, said that the capsule’s contents needed conservation work, and would then be displayed in the town’s museum. Copies could be placed in a new time capsule in the former church, which is now a sports hall.

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