A 19th-century photo recently published in a book on old photographs of Toledo reveals an enigmatic human figure
The recent publication of the fifth volume of “Toledo Olvidado” -a book on old photos of the city of Toledo, which has been in charge of Toledo for years, Eduardo Sánchez Butragueño- has not left anyone unmoved. Enlarging one of her photos in detail, a mysterious female figure is discovered: a nun “sandwiched” at the end of the 19th century in the cell of her convent as a punishment from her superior or on her own initiative as a gesture of maximum surrender to God.
The photo was taken around 1885 by a Frenchman who visited Toledo. He climbed the tower of the cathedral and from there he fired in the direction of the church of San Ildefonso. The photograph ended up in a French archive and years ago it was acquired by Eduardo. “The photo has a high resolution and one night, enlarging it with the computer to see it in detail, I was amazed and my blood ran cold,” he explains. In the lower part of the image he observed a human figure sitting by a window. Enlarging the image he came across a mummified or dying nun.
The nun in question was in a cell of the former Dominican convent of Jesus and Mary, a building now converted into the Provincial Historical Archive. According to some historians, cases of nuns “sandwiched” in their rooms were not uncommon at that time. The door was walled up and they were fed with bread and water. The reason for these “sandwiches” could be twofold: a punishment for breaking any rule of the order or a planned suicide to go to a better world when the body stopped supporting such a diet.
Sánchez Butragueño’s inquiries went further as he discovered in the press of the time the case of another nun who fled across the roofs of the convent to escape from a more than oppressive environment. “It seems that this nun was punished with a long imprisonment, after which she carried out her escape project, which has been a real odyssey across the roofs of the convent,” reported the newspaper “La Correspondencia de España.” «The execution of such an undertaking must have been very difficult and the danger in which she put her life very great. She, jumping across the roofs, entered the attic of a house inhabited by a family who experienced the surprise that is to be expected when seeing the nun enter through a window », continued the story of this newspaper.
Another news published in “Las Dominicales del Libre Pensamiento” even dared to affirm that the nun had “the face of a deceased”. Her punishment would have been due to the friendships that she frequented with a nephew of the superior of the convent, who would have asked her for a large sum of money, which is why the nun decided to steal the money that the order kept. She was caught red-handed and punished by eating only bread and water for several days.
Marzipan The Convent
The convent of Jesus and Mary, built in the 17th century, was abandoned by this Dominican order shortly before the beginning of the 20th century. The building was acquired in 1984 by the Ministry of Culture and converted into the Provincial Historical Archive, preserving its façade and other architectural elements. As for the nuns, today they reside on the outskirts of Toledo, in the Buenavista neighborhood, in a large convent where, in addition to dedicating themselves to the contemplative life, they make marzipan, marquise, yolk pastries, almond soup, mantecados , cookies, pastries and donuts that they sell under the brand of “Mazapanes El Convento”. They sell them in the convent itself and through its website. Modernities that neither the walled-in nun nor the flight across the rooftops ever imagined in their mystical trances.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.