250 year old safe that protected monks’ gold


It isn’t often that Bristol based Thornhill Security comes across something they haven’t seen before. But this was the case recently when they were called out to move a heavy safe from a client’s garage and into their house. As you may notice from the photo, it wasn’t your average jewellery or cash safe. In fact, it is more than 250 years old and rich in fantastic history and surprise. So, not only a challenge for the team, but an exciting and interesting job.

The safe (possibly French and manufactured near Nice), or cassaforte as it is referred to by our Italian client, was found by one of her uncle’s employees in 1966 during the rebuild of a monastery in the hills of Santuario Mondovi in Piedmont, Italy. Her father then visited the site and told the Abbot that he was very interested in purchasing it for himself.

He learned that the safe was believed to have originated in the Lerins Islands just off the French Riviera in the south of France, perhaps best known for being where the man in the Iron Mask was held captive, circa 1740.  It quickly became obvious that this safe was very special indeed. The family later learned that it was originally a travelling safe belonging to the Cistercian monks from a monastery founded on one of the Lerins Islands and used to store silver chalices, candelabras, church service apparatus and gold.

Once the sale was agreed, transporting it to the client’s family house in Ceva, Piedmont was the first of several hurdles to overcome and a specialist company was needed to crane it up to the second floor. Once in place they had the task of finding a person willing to take on the painstaking task of cleaning it by hand using a wire brush and a rotating drill. A couple of weeks later the transformation was complete and the safe could finally take its pride of place.

Opening it is a complicated process.  First you have to discover four secret compartments. Once you have located them the keyholes are revealed allowing four keys to be inserted and turned in sequence, finally enabling the doors to be unlocked and opened.

In 1977, after the death of her Father, our client’s sister Marisa decided to relocate it at her family home near Turin. Once again a specialist company was needed. It took some investigation and patience as very few companies were able to, or even interested in relocating the safe in the hills surrounding Turin, but eventually a specialist was found. But that was not to be the end of its journey. Over the years it has continued to move; from Turin to London, on to Antibes, France and now to its current home in the West of England.  The Thornhill team are proud to have played a part in safely relocating this majestic and historic safe in its new home.

Relocating any safe requires specific expertise and suitable equipment. Attempting to do so yourself could be dangerous, not simply in terms of bodily harm but risk of extensive damage to floors, stairs, or even buildings if dropped. It is therefore vital that you seek the help of a professional safe removal team.  If you are moving home, relocating or simply in needing to move your existing safe, contact a member of  Eurosafe UK (see our Members list) for more help and information.



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