The Rock of Ensisheim

Here is Megan Garber baiting me with everything I love in this world--early modern European history, France (sort of), and thunderstones:


On November 7, 1492, people around the Alsatian city of Ensisheim heard an explosion, accompanied by crashes of thunder. The air lit up with fire. A smoky flash streaked, screaming, through the sky, hurtling toward Earth at a sharp angle. The source of the chaos -- a celestial stone -- finally slammed into a wheat field on the outskirts of the town. 

The only direct eyewitness to this unusual event, it seems, was a young boy. He proceeded to lead the stunned residents of Ensisheim to the charred-but-shiny rock, an object whose impact had carved a hole in the ground that was more than three feet deep. 

The people assumed it had been sent from God. They also assumed it might be an omen. The Austrian emperor Maximilian I, who happened to be in Ensisheim at the time -- adding, no doubt, to the superstitions -- ordered residents to expose the rock at the local church. Chaining the object on holy ground, it was thought, would mitigate any evil it might bestow on the town.

So much awesome-sauce. There's some cool art in Megan's post also. As for the present, I can't stop watching the video. It's like that scene in Signs where dude sees the alien. "Move children! Vamonos!

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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