( AP ) - A time capsule was found atop a bell tower at Mexico
City's Metropolitan Cathedral, where it was placed in 1791 to protect the building from harm, researchers said Tuesday.
The lead box - filled with religious artifacts, coins and parchments - was hidden in a hollow stone ball to mark the moment on May 14, 1791, when the building's topmost stone was laid, 218 years after construction had begun.
Workers restoring the church found the box in October, inside the stone ball base of a cross that sits atop the 200-foot southern bell tower. Researchers spent the next three months opening the airtight box and preserving its contents.
Among them was a small case of wax blessed by the Pope that served to protect against mishaps, said Rev. Ruben Avila, rector of the cathedral.
Also inside was an engraving of Saint Barbara, a Roman Catholic martyr associated with lightning whose image served as "a religious lightening rod, to protect against damage," said archaeologist Xavier Cortes, director of historic buildings for the National Council of the Arts and Culture.
The cathedral, like most church buildings in Mexico, is considered government property.
A perfectly preserved parchment listed the time capsule's contents - including 23 medals, 5 coins, and five small crosses made of palm fronds - which it said were "for protection from the storms."
Considering the cathedral's history - it has been flooded, fought over and damaged as the soft soil it sits on sinks - the cathedral may need divine protection.
A new time capsule - with items from this year - will be placed into the stone ball when it is closed again, he said, without specifying what it would contain.
The cathedral was built on the swampy terrain of a former island and partially atop an Aztec pyramid.