Centuries old letters & banknotes found in old birds' nests under Russian church roof

© Alexey Alexeev
Two-hundred-year-old letters, banknotes worth a small fortune, calendar pages and all kinds of other fascinating scraps were found during renovation works on the Cathedral of the Assumption in Zvenigorod, some 70km west off Moscow.

The surprising discovery was made when builders began clearing away hundreds of birds’ nests that had accumulated under the cathedral’s roof. Birds have been picking up scraps of paper for centuries to use as building material for their homes. 

“The oldest documents probably come from the 1830s, when the roof was replaced,” Dmitriy Sedov from the Zvenigorod Museum told Russian media.

The Cathedral of the Assumption in Zvenigorod was built in the early 15th century. It is known for its frescos by Russia’s greatest medieval painter Andrei Rublev.

One of the banknotes found was for 1,000 rubles, a fortune back then. Imagine losing that to some nesting birds!

© Alexey Alexeev

The print treasures, advertisements and bits of newspapers, open a window on the vibrant life of 19th century Russia.

© Alexey Alexeev

Certain reminders, however, best remain a thing of the past, such as a 1933 food coupon. 

© Alexey Alexeev

Cigarette packages, candy wrappers, and private letters signed by the authors, offer fascinating insights into the day-to-day life of Zvenigorod at that time.  

© Alexey Alexeev

Historians plan to study the papers carefully and present a detailed report. Some of the scraps are clues into a long forgotten past. For example, they found a mortgage document for a large sum of money loaned by a merchant woman. The historians want to dig deeper and find out what happened after the important document was lost. 

Workers have also discovered quite a number of bird carcasses and the skull of a cat.

© Alexey Alexeev

The archive has been sent to a laboratory for further research.

© Alexey Alexeev

© Alexey Alexeev