A Year: Day to Day Men: 7th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Fervor Doubled

On November 7, 1492, the Ensisheim Meteorite strikes a wheat field in Alsace, France.

Shortly before noon on November 7, 1492, a meteorite fell in a field just outside the walled city of Ensisheim in Alsace, France. The fall of the meteorite through the Earth’s atmosphere was observed as a fireball at a distance of up to 150 kilometres from where it eventually landed. The only witness was a young boy who saw the single stone punch itself a meter deep into what is now the rich soil of the eastern French countryside. It is the oldest meteorite impact with a confirmed date on record, and has become famous for its dramatic fall from the heavens, recorded for posterity by the Italian priest Sigismondo Tizio.

In an age when comets, shooting stars, and other celestial phenomenon remained unexplained, the appearance of the meteorite was quickly attributed to divine intervention. When the citizens of Ensisheim learned of the fall, many people wanted their own souvenir of the event in the form a fragment chipped from the main mass. As the crowds descended on the stone, the Chief Magistrate took charge and stopped further destruction. The stone was set at the door of the Ensisheim church where its fame was soon magnified.

On November 26th, the “King of the Romans” King Maximilian arrived in Ensisheim to consult privately with the stone. Several days later, Maximilian declared the meteorite to be a wonder of God, and then chipped off two small pieces of the stone, one for himself and one for his friend Archduke Sigismund of Austria. King Maximilian gave the stone back to the citizens of Ensisheim stating that it should be preserved in the parish church as evidence of God’s miracles. The meteorite was fixed to the church wall with iron crampons “to prevent it from wandering at night or departing in the same violent manner it had arrived” .

Today, the Ensisheim meteorite resides on display at the sixteenth-century Musée de la Régence in Ensisheim. It is now protected in the town; but over centuries,  visitors managed to chip off about 56 kg (123 pounds) of its original 127-kg mass. The Ensisheim meteorite is classified as an ordinary chondrite, the most abundant meteorite class, constituting more than 85 percent of meteorite falls.

Sebastian Brant, satirist and author of “Das Narrenschiff”, described the meteorite and its fall in the poem “Loose Leaves Concerning the Fall of the Meteorite”. Brant created broadsheets in Latin and German with a poem about the meteorite describing it as an omen. On the reverse side of Albrecht Dürer’s 1495 painting “Saint Jerome in the Wilderness” is an image of what appears to be a meteor/meteorite. It has been suggested that this might be the Ensisheim Meteorite.

Leave a Reply