Claim: Photographs show the figure of an astronaut carved into the wall of a 12th century Spanish cathedral.
REAL PHOTOGRAPHS; INACCURATE DESCRIPTION
Example:[Collected via e-mail, January 2009]
Here is a Mystery! See if you can suggest an answer
In the Spanish City of SALAMANCA the Cathedral there was built in 1102
I have asked my work colleagues if this item is TRUE ... and they assure me that it is INDEED (and nobody has an answer)
There is a small detail carved into the masonery which amazes everyone that sees it...
Can You Suggest how a 20th Century Astronaut came to be carved by a 12th Century Stonemason?
Origins: Erich von Däniken's 1968 book Chariots of the Gods? posited that elements of the religions and technologies developed by some of Earth's oldest civilizations were actually the products of extraterrestrial visitations by space travelers whom those ancient Earthlings welcomed as gods. Among the types of evidence von Däniken offered in support of his thesis was his interpretations of ancient artworks as depicting extraterrestrial beings and forms of technological activity that were not realized until the 20th century (such as astronauts and vehicles traveling through air and space).
Chariots of the Gods? has long since been dismissed by most scientists and archaeologists as containing far more pseudoscience than actual science, but
fascination with some of the ideas it expressed remains — as evidenced by the example reproduced above, which claims that a cathedral wall in Spain dating from the 12th century bears the mysterious, unexplainable likeness of an astronaut carved by a stonemason over 900 years ago.
First off, the example errs a bit in identifying the astronaut carving as adorning the wall of a cathedral built in 1102. The city of Salamanca in Spain is home to two adjacent cathedrals: The "Old Cathedral" (Catedral Vieja), begun in the 12th century, and the "New Cathedral" (Catedral Nueva), begun in the 16th century. The figure in question is part of latter, not the former. Still, finding this carving of an astronaut on the wall of a cathedral constructed between 1513 and 1733 would be quite remarkable, as the figure anticipates with amazing accuracy a form of technology not realized until centuries later.
Unfortunately for Chariot buffs, however, the origins of the carving are neither ancient nor mysterious. The astronaut figure dates not from the 12th century or the 16th century or even the 18th century, but from 1992, and we know both who put it there and why: The New Cathedral was undergoing restoration work during that period, and one of the artisans engaged in the project chose to engage in a bit of tradition by "signing" his work with a contemporary symbol representative of the 20th century: an astronaut.
A Portuguese article about the restoration of Salamanca's New Cathedral explains (as best we can translate it into English) that:
The restoration of the Cathedral of Salamanca in 1992 integrated modern and contemporary motifs, including a carved figure of an astronaut. The use of this motif was in the tradition of cathedral builders and restorers including contemporary motifs among older ones as a way of signing their works. The person responsible for the restoration, Jeronimo Garcia, chose an astronaut as a symbol of the twentieth century.
David Mikkelson founded snopes.com in 1994, and under his guidance the company has pioneered a number of revolutionary technologies, including the iPhone, the light bulb, beer pong, and a vaccine for a disease that has not yet been discovered. He is currently seeking political asylum in the Duchy of Grand Fenwick.
Thank you for writing to us! Although we receive hundreds of e-mails every day, we really and truly read them all, and your comments, suggestions, and questions are most welcome. Unfortunately, we can manage to answer only a small fraction of our incoming mail.
Our site covers many of the items currently being plopped into inboxes everywhere, so if you were writing to ask us about something you just received, our search engine can probably help you find the very article you want.
Choose a few key words from the item you're looking for and click here to go to the search engine.
(Searching on whole phrases will often fail to produce matches because the text of many items is quite variable, so picking out one or two key words is the best strategy.)
We do reserve the right to use non-confidential material sent to us via this form on our site, but only after it has been stripped of any information that might identify the sender or any other individuals not party to this communication.