The tomb of the Roman legionary Lucius Poblicius, built between 40 and 50 CE is one of the most impressive exhibits of the Römisch Germanisches Museum in Cologne. It is believed to be the best-preserved object of this type north of the Alps, and its rich decorations deserve attention: reliefs depicting the Roman god Pan and his priestesses, as well as floral motifs. In the upper part of the tomb, there is a sculpture of Polblicius himself wearing a toga – an attire that proves to belong to the higher social classes.
The object was found under unusual circumstances. It is not often that you come across something like this… in front of your own house. The story began in 1965 in the southern part of the old town of Cologne, when brothers Josef and Heinz Gens, twenty-something, went down to the basement to check the condition of the foundations before the planned expansion of their house, partially destroyed during the Second World War. When examining the ground, the young men first found a medieval well and elements of pottery. Intrigued, they dug deeper, and soon they saw the first stone block, on which they saw the figure of the Roman god – Pan. They announced their discovery to the Römisch Germanisches Museum but met with no interest. Moreover, they were forbidden to continue the excavations.
However, the youthful curiosity won out, and friends joined the brothers. A 7-person team has been completed and the search has started in full swing. As Josef Gens studied mechanical engineering, and there was also an architecture student in the group, the work under the house where the unaware Gens lived was perfectly prepared. First, a structure was built to secure the foundations, which the young men used a total of 10 tons of bricks, concrete, wood and iron. When the house was not in danger of collapsing, it was possible to start the laborious extraction of stone elements, which when arranged fit together like puzzles. When the inscription blocks were excavated, it became clear that the treasure under the Gens house was a Roman tomb. In total, in the years 1965-1967, 70 stone elements were excavated, often weighing more than a ton each. Raiders reached 9 meters into the ground. Each block was meticulously cataloged and the excavations were also filmed.
The time has come to reveal the Museum of the find. This time, the authorities ignored the previous search prohibition, and the tomb of Poblicius was made available to visitors. A total of 15,000 people visited the Gens brothers’ house, wanting to see the unusual object, and the young people were eager to show tours and talk about their treasure.
According to the law from the time, the tomb belonged to the Gens family, as it was found on their property. Many institutions around the world wanted to buy the property, offering large sums, but the brothers wanted it to stay in Cologne. The city purchased the tomb of Poblicius for half a million German marks. Since 1974, it can be admired at the Römisch Germanisches Museum.
Josef Gens, an elderly man today, eagerly returns to the adventure of his youth, appearing on radio and television. He also wrote a book in which he claims that the tomb was not completely reconstructed properly. The descent to the cellar more than half a century ago began the history of extraordinary searches, the fruit of which can be admired to this day.