3 historical treasures waiting to be found in Germany
Finished everything on Netflix? Read every single book in the house cover-to-cover? Well, if you’re looking for something to do why not take advantage of the good weather, pick up a shovel and head outside to seek your fortune as a treasure hunter? Legendary lost treasure might not be as far away as you think.
Lost treasure in Germany
Throughout history, Germany has always been a land of intrigue and wealth. Since Roman times, when the land was shrouded in mystery and populated by tribes of barbarians, there have been whispers of lost treasures just waiting to be rediscovered. And since then, several items of unimaginable wealth have disappeared within the borders of modern-day Germany, treasures that you might still be able to find today.
The Roman eagles
When the Romans went to war, their army consisted of a number of legions under the command of high-ranking Roman citizens. The size of a legion varied throughout history but it generally consisted of around 5.000 legionaries (soldiers with Roman citizenship) and 200 auxilia (troops that were not citizens). Each legion had an aquilifer, the man who bore a golden aquila, or “eagle”, the symbol of the legion. These eagles were incredibly important to Roman soldiers, holding almost religious importance.
Several of these eagles have been lost throughout history. However, the Roman Empire would often go to great lengths to retrieve them. The most famous Roma aquilae to be lost were actually in Germany (known to the Romans as Germania) when Germanic soldiers ambushed and destroyed an army of three legions and other auxiliary forces in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD.
All three aquilae were lost to the barbarians. However, five years later, the Emperor Tiberius sent his nephew, the great general Germanicus (a name bestowed upon him for his success in Germania) on a campaign of revenge, where he retrieved two of the eagles. The last one was recovered in 41 AD.
Lost eagles in Germany
While the three eagles lost in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest were eventually recovered, the fate of other Roman aquilae remains unknown. Two more were lost in Germany during the Revolt of the Batavi near Xanten, a town in North Rhine-Westphalia. The Batavi were a Germanic people who were renowned for their military prowess. They revolted against Roman rule and attacked a Roman camp in Germany, the two occupying legions were promised safe conduct if they left the camp but were promptly attacked and destroyed. The fate of the legions’ eagles is unknown; could they still be waiting to be found?
The Royal Casket of Izabela Czartoryska
The Royal Casket was a collection of relics, contained within a large wooden casket. The collection included 73 precious relics that had belonged to the Polish royal family, including a portrait of Queen Constance of Austria, the gold watch of King Augustus II, a crystal watch in a gold frame belonging to King Sigismund III Vasa and the pectoral cross of King Sigismund the Old. The relics were collated by Princess Elżbieta “Izabela” Dorota Czartoryska, a polish princess known for founding Poland’s first museum, the Czartoryski Museum.
When World War II started, the Casket was taken along with the entire collection of the Czartoryski Museum to the town of Sieniawa in Poland and hidden away. However, a German mill owner who worked for the Czartoryski family betrayed the hiding place to Nazi soldiers, who went on to occupy Sieniawa following the invasion of Poland in 1939. The hiding place was found and the Casket was opened, with its contents being distributed amongst German soldiers.
While these relics could be anywhere in the world, several may well have found their way back to Germany with their new owners.
Portrait of a Young Man
Among the Czartoryski Museum’s artworks was a collection of paintings by some of history’s greatest artists. The three-piece collection included Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt’s Landscape with the Good Samaritan and Portrait of a Young Man by Raphael.
These paintings went missing following the Nazi plunder of Sieniawa. After the end of the Second World War, extensive efforts were made to track down and return the paintings. Lady with an Ermine and Landscape with the Good Samaritan were actually found, but Portrait of a Young Man is still missing today.
The Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has long indicated its belief that the painting survived the war and was stolen and kept after it was discovered in Sieniawa. It has been suggested that the value of the painting is in excess of 100 million dollars, and the National Museum of Krakow has a reward of 100 million dollars for its return. So if you’re seeking fame and fortune, it might be time to pick up the trail.
The Amber Room
The Amber Room was a chamber room designed by Andreas Schlüter and constructed by master craftsman Gottfried Wolfram with the help of amber masters Ernst Schacht and Gottfried Turau. It was considered a priceless piece of art and featured amber panels, backed by gold leaf and adorned with gemstones, mirrors, carvings and mosaics. The room is said to have been worth from 142 million to over 500 million dollars and was considered the “Eighth Wonder of the World” while it was still standing. It took over 10 years to finish.
The room was originally installed at the City Palace in Berlin, at the behest of King Frederick I of Prussia. However, not long after, Tsar Peter I the Great of Russia visited the room and indicated his admiration. The room was then gifted to the Tsar by King Frederick William I (son of King Frederick) in 1716. It was installed at the Catherine Palace and was reworked by German and Russian craftsmen.
Search for the room
The room remained in the Catherine Palace until the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Experts tried to hide it from the Nazi soldiers by covering it behind normal wallpaper but it was eventually found, disassembled, and moved to Königsberg Castle. It was heavily damaged in 1944 when Königsberg was bombed by the RAF. In 1945, Hitler ordered that the room be moved, along with other looted possessions. However, after the war, the room was never seen publicly again. Eyewitness statements suggest that the room was loaded onto a military transport ship, which was promptly sunk by a Soviet submarine.
The whereabouts of the room are still unknown to this day. Some reports suggest it was completely destroyed, while others suggest that it was packed up and transported away, either being sunk, or separated and transported to different locations. One other theory is that parts of the room are still in a storeroom near the German castle in Königsberg, which was renamed Kaliningrad after it was given to the Soviet Union at the end of the Second World War.
Let the treasure hunt begin!
There is a very good chance that the lost treasures described above are waiting to be found in Germany. Some, like the artefacts from the Royal Casket, could maybe even be found in private residences, having been passed down as family heirlooms after being discovered and never returned. Others, while they could be in Germany, could just as easily be somewhere on the other side of the world.
One thing that is for certain though, is that all these treasures did in fact exist and are not simply legendary tales borne out of the Second World War and other times of strife and uncertainty. So, if you’re out to seek your fame and fortune, maybe it’s time to channel your inner Indiana Jones and start searching!