In 2010, the council of the small town of Quinto de Ebro, located half an hour from Zaragoza, decided to carry out some rehabilitation works on the local church, a deconsecrated building owned by the municipality. The construction, which in its day was the Church of the Asunción, from the beginning of the 15th century, with a well-preserved exterior and a beautiful Mudejar tower of great cultural value, was popularly known as El Piquete, and for many years it was used as a warehouse . In fact, the only thing well preserved in the church of Quinto was the exterior. The interior was in appalling condition due to looting and the continuous bombardment it suffered during the Civil War.
A SENSATIONAL FIND
The City Council had planned to rehabilitate the interior of the church to convert the building into an interpretation center of the Aragonese Mudejar and use it for cultural activities.But when in the spring of 2011 the floor was raised to install the heating, the surprise of the workers was enormous when mummified human bodies, both adults and children, began to emerge from the bowels of the building, all in their corresponding wooden coffins. In fact, many of the bodies discovered were monks wearing the habit of Saint Francis.In total, some seventy burials were found (although there are now more than a thousand documents), thirty of them perfectly mummified.
When in the spring of 2011 the floor was raised to install the heating, the surprise of the workers was enormous when mummified human bodies began to emerge from the bowels of the building
Among the archaeologists and researchers who came to study the sensational find was Mercedes González, director of the Institute for Scientific Studies of Mummies, who saw the bodies in 2014. The first thing the specialist affirms isthat the bodies of Quinto were not subjected to any artificial mummification process, but all were mummified naturally due to the climatic conditions of the place, that is, due to the lack of humidity in the subsoil of the church.
The burials are almost all from the mid-eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a time when it was customary to bury the dead under sacred ground. Until Carlos III prohibited this practice for health reasons.
Mercedes González and her team were in charge of studying and restoring the bodies and recovering their clothing. It was even possible to identify one of these people thanks to the historical documents that are preserved.
THE FIRST MUMMY MUSEUM IN SPAIN
The discovery aroused so much expectation that the administrations have contributed to making the church of Quinto the first mummies museum in Spain, the Quinto Mummies Museum, which was inaugurated at the beginning of the summer of 2018. The interior of the old church is it was adapted for a precise musealization, and the exposed bodies (fifteen so far) are shown to the public mainly in glass showcases located in the old chapel of Santa Ana.
But who were these people? We know what era they lived in. And some, by their habit, we know that they were religious. These were buried with their heads facing the altar and their feet facing outwards, whereas the lay people were arranged the other way around. There are also many young children, from one month old to seven years old (infant mortality was very high then).
TWO HUNDRED YEARS AGO
Two of the mummies of friars kept their footwear perfectly preserved. One of them wore high-heeled shoes that were very common among German noble families at the end of the 17th century. Other mummies also wore leather shoes and espadrilles that were in an excellent state of preservation.A common aspect to all the bodies is that they present the hands tied on the chest. The idea was to keep the hands together, with the fingers intertwined, in a prayerful attitude. Some magnificent examples are the mummy of a red-haired man dressed in a Franciscan habit who has received the name of Van Gogh because of his resemblance to the famous Dutch painter. In front of him lies the mummy of a woman with a magnificent head of brown hair tied back in a low bun, who has been christened Lady. The study of this mummy carried out at the Royo Villanova Hospital in Zaragoza provided interesting conclusions: apparently she was born in Alcañiz, lived in Madrid and died due to a prolapse of the uterus and rectum at the age of 35. She was possibly buried in Quinto because she had gone there to take the hot springs to treat her digestive problems when she was surprised by death.
Some child mummies are also exposed, perhaps the most impressive and emotional. In contrast,near the altar is the mummy of a woman who apparently died around the age of 70. Quite a feat at a time when life expectancy did not exceed forty.
All the bodies have their hands tied on their chests to keep their hands together, with their fingers intertwined, in an attitude of prayer.
The exhibition is completed with exhaustive information panels. Everything has been done with the utmost respect and precision so that the visitor can look back and contemplate the stories of some people with the same concerns, sorrows and joys as us, who lived two hundred years ago and who today, thanks to researchers , they can make their voices heard across the abyss of time.