A Stone from the Sky: The Thunderstone of Ensisheim, 1492

 

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The Thunderstone of Ensisheim

 

On November 7, 1492, a young boy from the Alsatian town of Ensisheim watched breathlessly as a brilliant fireball slashed across the sky and plunged to the ground in a wheat field. Rescued from local souvenir hunters by the local magistrate, the roughly triangular stony chondrite meteorite was “restrained” with iron chains inside the town’s parish church so that it would not be able to wander about at night or, perhaps, return to the heavens in the same fiery manner by which it arrived on Earth.

By the time the townspeople were finished with it, only 55kg (120 lbs) of the original 127kg (280 lb) meteorite remained. Newly-crowned Emperor Maximilian I of the Holy Roman Empire hurried to view the so-called “Thunderstone of Ensisheim”, whereupon he pronounced its appearance to be a good omen for the Empire’s wars with France and Turkey. The rounded remainder of the meteorite was placed within an elaborate glass case which was later installed in the Regency Palace of Ensisheim, built in 1535 by Maximilian’s grandson, the Emperor Ferdinand of Austria. As for the omen, history records that Maximilian I oversaw a great expansion of the territories controlled by his family… the Habsburgs.

 

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