Nail believed to be part of Cross of Christ discovered in Milevsko

Photo: ČTK / Václav Pancer

Archaeologists working in the Milevsko monastery in South Bohemia say they have discovered part of a nail which allegedly comes from the so-called True Cross, on which Jesus Christ was crucified. The find is one of the rarest Christian relics, comparable to the reliquary of St. Maurus in its significance and rarity.

Photo: ČTK / Václav Pancer

The discovery of the priceless Christian relic was preceded by the unearthing of a secret passage hidden behind a massive medieval wall of the monastery. Archaeologists believe it served as a treasury room for valuables concealed from raids by Hussite troops in the early 15th century.

This was confirmed by the discovery of fragments of precious metals in the crevices on the floor. But the biggest treasure, a six-inch-long piece of nail with a cross made of twenty-one carat gold, was hidden some six centimetres below the ground level.

Jiří Šindelář,  photo: ČT24

Jiří Šindelář is in charge of the archaeological research:

“After extracting the sediment, we discovered another, very small cavity. It was hidden well out of reach, roughly 1.5 metres behind the treasury.

“Buried beneath a large stone, there was a wooden reliquary decorated with gold and silver and inside was an iron nail signed with a golden cross.”

Photo: ČTK / Václav Pancer

Using cameras and specially adapted shovels, archaeologists removed the fragments of the reliquary, in which the nail was found. Archaeologists say the lid of the box was originally made of a solid gold plate inscribed with the letters IR, which stand for Jesus Rex.

According to dendrological research, the box of oak wood dates from the third or fourth century AD, says Jiří Šindelář:

“We analysed the wooden parts using radiocarbon dating which uncovered two types of wood. The first, younger one, dates to the reign of Charles IV, between 1290 and 1394. The other comes from the period 260 to 416 AD.”

Monastery in Milevsko,  photo: ČTK / Václav Pancer

The Monastery in Milevsko has been undergoing a lengthy reconstruction since the early 1990s, when it was returned to the Premonstratensian order.

The monastery, which is one of the finest examples of Czech Romanesque architecture, was founded in 1187. In 1420 the Hussites set it on fire and it was taken over by the nobility.

After the battle on the White Mountain in 1620, it was given back to the Premonstratensian order, but it never regained its former glory. In 1785 it was abolished and in the 19th and 20th centuries the entire complex fell into disrepair.

Church of St. Giles,  photo: ČTK / Václav Pancer

After the Velvet Revolution, the Premonstratensians came back to Milevsko and started to renovate it. The first building to undergo reconstruction was the deanery, followed by the Basilica and now, the tribune church of St. Giles.

Cardinal Dominik Duka says that while it cannot be confirmed that the nail found in Milevsko was really used in the crucifixion of Christ, it is nevertheless a very important discovery.

After undergoing further research and restoration, the newly found treasures will return to Milevsko and in the future, they will displayed to the public as part of a new exposition.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Lucie Hochmanová
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