MEXICO CITY — Experts restoring the interior of Mexico City’s Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral said Friday they found 23 lead boxes containing religious inscriptions and relics like small paintings and wooden or palm crosses.
The lead vessels were about the size of a mint box and bore written inscriptions dedicated to particular saints. A handwritten note found in one of them suggests they were previously found in 1810 and reburied.
The note said one of the boxes had been found by a group of masons and painters in 1810, and asked anyone who found it to «pray for his soul».
They were found in niches carved into the walls of the base of the cathedral’s lantern, the slender skylight that sits atop the dome. The niches were covered with clay panels and were hidden under plaster.
Experts said on Friday they were found on December 30 during plaster restoration work. The National Institute of Anthropology and History said they may have been placed there to provide divine protection for the cathedral or the city.
The institute said that once catalogued, the boxes and their contents would be returned to their niches and plastered over.
The cathedral was built in a centuries-old process between 1573 and 1813. One of the reasons it took so long is that almost from the start of construction, the massive, heavy building began to sink in the soft subsoil that characterizes the city.
It is not the first time that relics have been found buried in the walls of the cathedral.
In 2008, researchers found a time capsule from 1791 placed atop a cathedral bell tower, apparently to protect the building from lightning.
The lead box filled with religious artifacts, coins and scrolls was placed in a hollow stone ball to mark the celebration of May 14, 1791, when the tallest stone in the building was laid, 218 years later the start of construction.
A perfectly preserved scroll found in the box described the contents of the time capsule, including 23 medals, 5 coins, and five small crosses made of palm trees. The scroll says «all are for protection against the storms».