Loket meteorite (Elbogen)

The Elbogen (also the Loket) meteorite is one of the oldest meteorites in the world whose fall has been documented in detail. It is also the largest preserved meteorite on our territory.

According to historical sources, the iron meteorite fell in 1400 (some say as late as 1422) into the courtyard of Loket Castle. Its impact weight was about 107 kilograms and it had the size and shape of a "horse’s head" (dimensions approx. 50×30×20 centimetres). However, it seems that its weight was actually larger than stated.

The meteorite had lain for centuries in the cellar of the Loket Town Hall and sometimes even in the castle itself. Very little information about its origin has survived, as the town archives have burned down several time since then. During the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), the citizens of Loket threw the meteorite into the castle’s 40-metre deep well for fear of being taken away by Swedish troops. It was not until 1670 that the well was pumped out and the stone extracted.

In 1742, soldiers of the French army again threw the meteorite into the deep castle well and waited to see if it would reappear and return to its original place. Not surprisingly, they waited quite a while ☺. The meteorite remained at the bottom of the well for 34 years until the well dried up in 1776. Then it was pulled out and deposited in the Loket Town Hall. Only after this time, chemistry professor K. A. Neumann discovered that it was a meteorite.

In the past, the Elbogen meteorite was attributed with magical powers and many legends have arisen about it; here is probably the most widely known:

The Margrave of Vohburg had the worst reputation among the burgraves who ruled in Loket. He mercilessly forced the people into hard labour, had no mercy on the poor or the sick. And he was equally harsh in levying taxes on his subjects. Those who could not pay in time were captured without mercy by the guards, taken to the castle and put in a dark dungeon hollowed out of the rock.

At that time, a poor woman lived in a rundown cottage on the banks of the Oharka river, and she had a considerable debt to pay to the margrave. Her husband fell ill and died, and she herself was seized with an illness from which she could hardly recover. All she had left were hungry children, an empty cottage and all she could do was to cry her eyes out. And so she hoped only for God’s help and for the mercy of the margrave, who would perhaps relent when she would tell him of her misfortune ...

The day was a Sunday in August, a hot and sultry day, when she set out for Loket to pray in the chapel and ask the margrave for mercy. With the child in her arms she entered the castle, wiping the sweat from her brow as she went, for she was exhausted by illness and misery. And as she passed by the great hall of the palace, the margrave ascended the bay window, and looked haughtily on the people who were prostrating themselves before him. And the woman took courage, fell down in the dust before the margrave and made her supplication to him.

He listened to her uninterested and waved his hand dismissively: "You need not waste words, you must pay, or you will be thrown into prison!" Then the woman began to wail in a heartrending voice, and begged him to have mercy on her, the poor thing, for the sake of God’s mercy. And when even then his heart was not moved, she, overcome with despair, threatened the margrave and cried out in a shaken voice: "For having a heart of stone, may you be turned into stone!"

At that moment, a black cloud descended over the castle. The thunder roared until the whole mountain was shaken, and lightning struck the bay window on which the margrave stood. The people on their way to church fell to the ground, overcome with fear that the end of the world was coming, and with it the Day of Judgement. After a while, the skies cleared up, the cloud dispersed - and there was no sign of the storm. Only underneath the bay window of the palace was smoke, reeking of sulphur, and at the bottom of a hole in the ground there lay a large, hot stone.

"The margrave was cursed into a stone!" cried the people in dismay, and, crossing themselves, they rushed into the church to thank God for ridding them of their oppressive master.

In the 19th century, the Elbogen meteorite was cut into several parts; in the town of Loket today you can find a copy of it and a piece weighing about 14 kilograms. The biggest piece weighing roughly 80 kilograms has been deposited in the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna since 1812, where my piece also comes from. Other pieces are deposited in the Sokolov Museum, in the National Museum in Prague and in museums in Germany, Austria, United Kingdom, Sweden, US and India.

The cutting of the meteorite, which was not at all easy at that time (the meteorite was even heated in a furnace out of curiosity), attracted the attention of the famous German poet Johann Wolfgang Goethe, who liked to visit Loket and its surroundings repeatedly. In a letter from 1819 he wrote to his friend: "There is a very remarkable remnant of meteoric iron at the town of Loket. What an eternal shame it is that so precious a product of nature is cut to pieces, as if one were to cut up a large diamond to share it, or, according to the judgement of Solomon, as if the child cut in two were still an infant."

Vytvořil Shoptet | Design Shoptetak.cz