It was Friday at 10:30 pm when Arthur Brand received the delivery he was nervously hoping for.
No one was there when his doorbell rang and he opened the door. Instead, a cardboard box was waiting for him at the door in the dark.
In the box he said it was a relic of “the precious blood of Christ,” one of the most sacred crafts ever stolen from the Catholic Church.
“(My) heart was beating in (my) chest,” a Dutch art detective told AFP in an interview about the recovery of stolen treasure.
The brand is dubbed “Art World’s Indiana Jones” due to the remarkable recovery of stolen art, including the statue of “Hitler’s Horse”, Picasso’s paintings, and the ring once owned by Oscar Wilde.
At the age of 52, he was one of the most famous art detectives in the world and is trusted by both thieves and police for unprecedented access to criminal trade in stolen art.
But getting the relics of “the precious blood of Christ” was a particularly special experience for him.
“As a Catholic myself, this is close to the legend of Jesus and the Holy Grail you can get.”
“It was a religious experience,” he said.
– “Major shock” –
When he opened the box, he discovered what he wanted: the relic is completely intact.
The gorgeous container, about 30 centimeters (11 inches) high, has two metal bulbs inside, which are said to hold the drops of Jesus’ blood collected in the Holy Grail during the crucifixion. I am.
It is housed in a heavily golden copper box, studded with jewels, and painted with Christ on the cross and other saints.
Relics are believed to date back to the death of Christ and have been a source of worship for Catholic pilgrims for over 1,000 years.
It was held by the Fécamp Monastery in the Normandy region of France from the night of June 1st to 2nd, when it was stolen, just two weeks before the annual “Precious Blood Clot” celebration.
“The thief was probably trapped a few hours later and was stripped off with an artifact to get inside,” Brand said.
“It was a big shock to have this famous piece, this legendary piece stolen,” he told AFP at home, a relic on display nearby.
It wasn’t just the relics and their copper boxes that were waiting in the paperboard packaging at the brand’s front door on that fateful July night.
There are several copper liturgical plates, saint depictions, and ornate goblets, which were also stolen from the monastery in June.
The brand carefully showed AFP a gorgeous and heavy copper box with a miniature roof and four angels in its corner called the Reliquary.
AFP has not been able to independently verify the authenticity of the object and has not yet been investigated by police or experts.
But brands are confident about their credibility.
“There is no doubt that it is genuine. It is almost impossible to forge religious things.”
Dutch police said Tuesday that the relics would be handed over to Dutch law enforcement agencies after receiving a request for mutual assistance from France.
Upon receiving the object, Dutch police investigate the authenticity of the object and attempt to identify the thief.
“Our conclusions and relics will be returned to the French police after the investigation,” Dutch national police spokesman Dennis Janus told AFP.
Jean-Luc Brunin, bishop of Le Havre, the bishop of the Fécamp monastery, told AFP that finding the relics so quickly was a “surprise.”
“I was wondering if we were going to find it. The Fécamp monastery was built around these relics. That’s a pretty incredible story,” he said.
The brand said its involvement in the case began a few days after the theft when it received a protected email claiming possession of the stolen plunder from an anonymous writer.
“This person was approaching me on behalf of another person who had the stolen relics stored,” Brand said.
But “the ultimate relic, stealing the blood of Jesus in your house is a curse,” he said.
“They knew what it was, and when you realized you couldn’t really sell it, they needed to get rid of it.”
The brand showed AFP an email written in Dutch and asked the person to retrieve the stolen property. That’s because the risk was too high to return to the monastery itself.
The brand was told that the stolen artifact would be delivered to their home, but no date or time was given.
“I was virtually a prisoner at my house for a week. I couldn’t leave,” he said with a laugh.
Finally, you can see the object delivered by the anonymous sender.
Asked why the thief would return the stolen artwork to the brand, he said, “It would be too dangerous to involve the police.”
“These people know my reputation and the most important thing is to bring it back to church. Hopefully it will last for another thousand years,” Brand said.
By Jan HENNOP