It is estimated that only 7% – 8% of stolen art and artifacts are returned, making this a monumental recovery.
An art detective recognised as the ‘Dutch Indiana Jones’ has recovered one of the most sacred artefacts ever stolen from the Catholic Church.
Arthur Brand, who is known for his incredible skills in tracking down stolen art, has found the ‘Precious Blood of Christ relic’ – a reliquary said to contain Jesus’s blood – six weeks after it was taken from an abbey in northern France.
Mr Brand said the ornate golden shrine, which holds two lead vials said to contain blood collected from Jesus during the crucifixion, was dropped anonymously on his doorstep in a carboard box after he was contacted by the thieves.
The art sleuth – who has previously recovered a Picasso painting, a sculpture known as Hitler’s horses, and a ring that belonged to Oscar Wilde – now plans to hand the relic over to Dutch police, who will return it to France.
‘As a Catholic myself, this is about as close to Jesus and the legend of the Holy Grail you can get,’ he said.
Describing the moment he opened the cardboard box and found the artefact, he added: ‘It was an authentic, religious experience.’
The robbery took place on June 1 when a thief is thought to have concealed themselves inside the abbey in Fécamp – around 100 miles west of Calais – at closing time so they would be locked inside.
They then spent the night emptying the holy building of valuable artefacts including what appears to be a chalice for communion wine, a ciborium for the Eucharist, liturgical dishes, and a number of other golden objects.
But by-far the most valuable item they stole was the Precious Blood of Christ.
The reliquary is a 30cm-tall copper box that contains two lead vitals which, as legend has it, were filled with blood collected from Jesus in the Holy Grail as he died on the cross more than 2,000 years ago.
The relic – adorned with gold, precious stones and depictions of Christ on the cross – was said to have been sealed in a trunk and tossed in the ocean before washing up in northern France.
Housed at the abbey in Fecamp, it has been attracting pilgrims for 1,000 years.