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Source Samples

'Typical' tower capsules deposited in spheres on top of prominent buildings contain ...

  • ... usually at least one document, written by a local dignitary (parish priest, town scribe, building owner etc.) on paper / parchment (rarely metal plates / most recently also digital media) and sealed in a cartridge or box of various kinds. Texts conventionally feature one or more components from the following range, sometimes in set formats mirroring previous deposits: date of writing, details on the construction / repair of the tower (reason, finances, workers), information on the user community (no of inhabitants, list of secular as well as ecclesiastical officials at various levels), a chronicle of local / regional / (inter-)national developments (events, wars, diseases, natural disasters, new technologies ...), current prices of key commodities (cereals, beer, wine), reflections on the state of the place / world, thanks for / invocation of divine protection;
  • ... sometimes additional manuscript, typed or printed communications by other officials, builders or individuals (at times with contrasting assessments);
  • ... and not infrequently one or more images (of settlements, workers, saints) and objects (coins, banknotes, relics, symbolic items).

Many tower capsules accommodate several layers of multimedia deposits, made at intervals of on average 1-2 generations. A sizeable number of sources from different periods have been transcribed and edited, partly online (e.g. a lead plate at the Liebfrauenkirche in Halberstadt 1394; a 'charter' deposited at Horrheim in 1964) but mostly in print format (see samples in bibliography). The first couple of boxes of translated extracts below illustrate the tone and religious connotations of many documents; the bottom two exemplify the kinds of chronicles and material culture that can be found:


St Marzellus, Gersau (Switzerland)

Should it occur that this letter be opened by our successors, may the residents of our land at that time intercede with God Almighty for us current residents as well as for all founders and benefactors of this church, with a general Christian prayer, that He will graciously forgive us all our sins and misdeeds. May this land also be graciously preserved in the true Catholic faith and in its ancient God-given liberties, acquired by our ancestors from the old emperors and kings and honestly preserved since, and may it always be governed in good peace and prosperity in good unity.

(24 September 1655: translated from Wiget 1984)

Heidecksburg (Rudolstadt / Germany)

May the court, town and country fare well,
that is, what I shall heartily desire.
May this tower stand for many hundred years,
and God protect it from lightning and thunder!
God has made everything well, so that it could happily be completed ...
In God I entrust all things.
Gloria in excelsis Deo!


(12 April 1934: translated from Rein 1934)


Bludesch (Vorarlberg / Austria)

These early tower capsule chronicles were written for the rural parish of St Jakob in 1546 & 1571. They are now kept in the Vorarlberger Landesarchiv at Bregenz (charters no. 4876 + 4877). Pic: BK.

Bludesch 1546
Bludesch 1571

Kröpeliner Tor, Rostock (Germany)

This sphere on top of a surviving city gate has held deposits from 1777, 1891 and 1967, with the last year also appearing in the weathervane located above. Pic: Erik Groß for Der Spiegel.


Kröpeliner Tor Rostock