Workers Find a Hidden Note From 1941 in Historic Belgium Church

November 17, 2020
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Construction on the St. James Church in Belgium first began in 1491 and it took 175 years to complete. The church is a 15th-century flamboyant Gothic church with a Baroque interior and boasts one of the oldest working tower clocks in the world. It is a historic building and treasured by those in the city.

Renovations and improvements are being done to strengthen the historic building, and among them is roof work and restoration. Recently, one of the workers made a discovery when looking in a keystone that hangs from the ceiling of the tower. A matchbox was tucked inside an ornament, and inside, a note written on the back of two coupons by a team of previous craftsmen and workers from all the way back in 1941.

Dated July 12, 1941, the note was signed by four men and offered advice to those who might find it. Here is a translation of what some of it says:

“If this ceiling will be painted again, we will no longer belong to this earth…We have to tell the following generations that we didn’t have a happy life. We have lived through two wars. One in 1914 and one in 1940, that can still count! We’re working here hungry they extort us to the last cent to eat little.”

The letter goes on:

“I advise our descendants when it comes to war again. In the course of life, take good care of a stock in the house, such as rice, coffee, flour, tobacco, wheat, grain for you to keep alive  Have a sufficient amount of food in excess like rice, coffee, flour, tobacco, grains, wheat, to keep you alive…Enjoy life to the fullest and if necessary take another wife. The ones who are married: Just go home! Salut men!”

The letter is signed by four men: John Janssen, Jul Gyselinck, Louis Chantraine, and Jul Van Hemeldonck. As it turns out, the men who wrote it were not happy with life, had lived through wars, hunger, and poverty. Their advice to those who follow seems to be to hoard food and supplies, mind your house, hold onto your wives if you have one, and to get a wife if you do not have one. They also say to enjoy life, something that many of us may have forgotten to do these last few months.

A note like this from the past is an incredible find and gives us a brief look back to what people of that time were facing in their lives. The advice to hoard food, go home, enjoy life, and find a partner ring close to home for many in our current time.

Do you think these men left behind a helpful bit of wisdom? What advice would you leave someone from today’s world? Share those thoughts with us in the comments.

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