This story was first published on August 1, 2008
Circulating message questions the mystery of a modern astronaut figure carved onto the wall of a centuries-old cathedral in Salamanca, Spain.
There is no mystery. The astronaut was added in 1992 during restoration work on the cathedral.
Subject: Spaceman Salamanca, Spain cathedral
The Cathedral was built in 1102
ANY EXPLANATION TO THAT?
The above photographs and text are circulating via email and social media. One version of the message circulates in the form of an attached PowerPoint slide show. The photographs show a carving of an astronaut on the facade of a cathedral in Salamanca, Spain.
The same photographs have also been posted to a number of online forums and blogs on which they have generated a considerable amount of debate. While some commentators have suggested that the astronaut has been added using image manipulation software, other observers have come up with more outlandish explanations, including time travel, alien visitations in ancient times and amazingly precise predictions of the future by the artists who decorated the original buildings.
More down-to-earth observers have drawn the most obvious conclusion, which is that the astronaut carving was added to the building in much more recent times. And, in fact, this more sensible explanation for the “mystery” is entirely correct.
The astronaut, along with other contemporary symbols was added in 1992 during restoration work on the “new” cathedral. According to an article about the restoration (in Portuguese – Click here for Google translation to English), it is a tradition of cathedral builders and restorers to include a contemporary symbol on the building as a means of “signing” their work.
A Wikipedia article about the cathedral concurs:
Its main entrance consists of 3 arcs, each leading to the 3 naves (sections) of the church. All three are richly carved. Among the ornate carvings on the façade is the incongruous likeness of an astronaut floating in space; it was added by an artist during restoration work in 1992 as a symbol of the 20th century.
Thus, there is actually no mystery about the Cathedral “spaceman” whatsoever.
The message is also inaccurate in another detail. It claims that the astronaut carving is on a cathedral that was built in the year 1102. However, the carving actually graces the wall of the “new” cathedral. Construction of the New Cathedral of Salamanca began in 1513. The Old Cathedral, located nearby, is the building that dates back to about 1100 AD.