(Walter J. Langbein is author
of some 60 non-fiction books on
“mysteries of the world,
many of which have become bestsellers in Europe)
Translation: Marlies Bugmann
Fotos/ copyright: Walter-Jörg Langbein
|Foto 1: Strange faces|
“There is nothing of Padre Crespi’s collection left in our building!” ‘Brother Gatekeeper’ assures us when we arrive at the main portal of the Salesian monastery of Cuenca in Ecuador. “No metal tablets?” I ask. The monk does not conceal how awkward it is for him to answer such questions. I understand. He would often have been asked the same thing. Nevertheless, I keep enquiring: “Where is Padre Crespi’s collection?” The gatekeeper emits a deep sigh: “It was sold in its entirety to the ‘Banco Central’!”
|Foto 2: Strange animals|
And yet, I will be successful in photographing some of the mysterious objects inside the Monastery. These photos have never before been published. Here, in this blog, I am showing these images for the first time! They are documents that give evidence of a sad discovery. They show artifacts trampled under foot—and which have most likely vanished by now!
Esteban Salazar, who is the caretaker of the Crespi Collection at the ‘Banco Central’, interjects: “Our bank has acquired only the terracotta and stone objects! Many of the metal items must still be in your monastery!” ‘Brother Gatekeeper’ promises to enquire about it. We may return in a few hours. Willi Dünnenberger, two other travel companions and I amble along the ‘Gaspar Sangurima’ and the ‘General Torres’ streets.
|Foto 3: Strange scenes|
We enjoy the ‘Maria Auxiliadora’ park. It offers respite in a dusty, dirty, and loud city. A monument to Padre Crespi stands there. It is a memorial to the archaeologist and clergyman. We watch as some native inhabitants place flowers at its base. Thus, they remember the padre, who was one of them. With the floral tribures they continue to demonstrate their gratitude ten years after his demise.
At the prearranged time we return to the main portal of the monastery. What a surprise! We are permitted to enter! “There could still be metal tablets from Crespi’s collection…somewhere in the monastery!” ‘Brother Gatekeeper’ explains to me. “May we be permitted to see some of the artifacts?” The monk hesitates. “If there is still such a thing here, then Brother Superior must decide.” The latter would decide about our enquiry. But that could take a while.
The Salesian gatekeeper cannot fathom this: Some Germans from far away Europe travel to Ecuador, only to inspect Padre Crespi’s allegedly worthless collection. I ask: “Why did Padre Crespi collect worthless metal junk, as well as stone and terracotta artifacts of immense value? Was he unable to distinguish archaeological treasures from useless rubbish?” Brother Superior will answer my questions, if he can spare the time.
|Foto 4: God or human?|
Hours of more waiting followed. A statue of Mother Mary in the courtyard of the monastery attracts my attention. It is the ‘helpful Mother of God’, the name-giver of the monastery. I count three levels on the building. There are many windows. A decaying wooden staircase leads up to each of the levels. And suddenly, I make a sad discovery—everywhere I look I see metal plates and tablets, some of them merely millimetres thin—they contain mysterious symbols. They are the artifacts from Padre Crespi’s collection. The monks used them to repair the stairs, the walls, and the floors.
A young brother follows me around, step by step. I point to one of the metal plates. “Is this from Padre Crespi’s collection?” He nods. When I ready my camera, the otherwise taciturn monk snaps at me: “No Photos!” During the ensuing hours, I walk back and forth, up and down the monastery courtyard, under the constant, watchful eye of my guardian. And yet, I succeed in taking several photos—without looking through the viewfinder, ‘free-hand’ as it were.
|Foto 5: Strange pyramid|
Repeatedly, I pace around the courtyard, climb the partly rotten stairs, walk past barred windows…
Are the treasures, which have allegedly been sold to the ‘Banco Central’, where only the ceramic and stone items arrived, behind those windows? One of the monks reveals to me that, since Däniken’s publishing of Aussaat und Kosmos, veritable armies of travellers followed the trail of the Swiss author, wanting to see the metal tablets. The monastery inhabitants had fobbed them off with the advice: “Everything was sold to the bank!” The small trick worked! The monk gives me a mischievous grin.
Are they hiding Crespi’s metal objects behind some of the locked doors? Each time I approach one of them, my guardian cleverly prevents me from getting near one of the windows. A plaque on one of the doors refers to the dead Padre Crespi, and his work for the poorest of the poor in Cuenca.
|Foto 6: Strange faces|
The hope of seeing at least a few of Crespi’s metal tablets led me to visit the Salesian monastery in Cuenca. First, the monks denied that there were metal objects still present in the monastery, and then they admitted to it. But I saw only disappointing evidence. I was forced to make a sad discovery. The community reveres Padre Crespi almost like a saint. In ‘his monastery’, however, his mysterious legacy is literally being trampled under foot.
Esteban Salazar still has hope. He intends to reconstruct a ‘Crespi Collection’ and make it accessible to the public. Will he succeed? I have my doubts! My secretly taken photos date from 1992. Twenty-four years later, Crespi’s artifacts, used to repair the floors and stairs of the monastery, are probably lost forever.
|Foto 7: A "chief"|
One can read a book, only to be sent on a long journey. In 1972, I devoured Erich von Däniken’s third international bestseller, Aussaat und Kosmos. In 1992, I travelled to Ecuador, tracking Padre Crespi’s mysterious collection. A decade after the demise of the beloved clergyman, the collected metal objects faced oblivion, but were still—at least partly—in existence. Why do the inhabitants of the Salesian monastery so zealously disregard Padre Crespi’s legacy?
Are the artifacts truly only worthless junk? Or are they a part of a valuable treasure that is still hidden? Erich von Däniken pointed to such a treasure in a gigantic cave system: Nonsense or Truth? I investigated, and searched for a trail…and made a discovery!
The perhaps largest archaeological treasure is still waiting to be unearthed in Ecuador. To date, no one embarked upon such an exploration. Are the members of the established World of Science afraid of disagreeable findings?
|Foto 9: Cat-God?|
Fotos/ copyright: Walter-Jörg Langbein