Long-Sought Croatian Time Capsule Emerges After 140 Years In The Dark

Total Croatia News

December 19, 2018 — A time capsule buried deep in a staircase in the Croatian National Theater Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka will finally see daylight after decades spent gathering dust. The capsule’s contents will be part of an exhibition called “Unknown Klimt,” open during Rijeka’s reign as the European Capital of Culture in 2020, according to Novi List.

Famous Rijeka mayor Giovanni Ciotta buried the time capsule as part of the capstone to the theatre’s construction in 1885. The ornately-decorated tube was unearthed during the Croatian theater’s last major restoration in 1970. It has sat in the building’s archives ever since.

It remained forgotten until the Museum of the City of Rijeka’s director Ervin Dubrović intervened. The organization coveted the time capsule and its collection of rare posters, hoping to add them to its collection.

The director’s gumption and Rijeka’s role as the European Capital of Culture were enough to bring the capsule out to the public. 

The capsule and its contents will feature in a large exhibition called “Unknown Klimt” prepared by the City of Rijeka Museum. The show includes the paintings by the brothers Klimt (Ernest and Gustav) and Franz Matsch.

Rijeka’s theater was considered a masterpiece of architecture at the time it opened on Oct. 4, 1885. 

The famous Venetian sculptor August Benvenuti created at the theater’s imposing figures and ornaments. The ceiling painter Franz Matsch collaborated with the brothers Gustavo and Ernest Klimt for many of its drawings.

The time capsule itself has a strange history of discovery followed by neglect. The mayor entombed the highly-ornamented lead tube in a small cavity beneath the front door.

It contained documentation about the theater’s construction, a poster from the first show and the currency in circulation at the time. 

Despite their gorgeous appearance, both the time capsule and its posters were almost forgotten.

Workers overseeing the theater’s 1970 renovation knew of the capsule, but couldn’t find it. Then, the foreman at the time obtained a newspaper article describing the opening ceremony in detail. It mentioned the symbolic laying of the final stone at the bottom of a staircase near the entrance.

The time capsule finally saw daylight again, after nearly a century underground. But then the theater relegated it to the archives.

The poster became one of the time capsule’s better-known treasures and a slight obsession for the Museum’s director Dubrović. It is the only multicolored lithographic poster of Rijeka, and only preserved poster from the 19th century.

For more stories about history and the arts in Croatia, check TCN’s Lifestyle page.


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