Italy's art police recover works stolen from quake-hit churches

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
Italy's art police recover works stolen from quake-hit churches
Two of the recovered paintings, one stolen from L'Aquila and one stolen from Spoleto, after earthquakes damaged churches in each town. Photo: Carabinieri

An Italian police unit specializing in protecting the country's cultural heritage on Tuesday presented 37 artworks it had recovered, some of which had been stolen from churches in the aftermath of deadly earthquakes in central Italy.


The artworks dated back to between the 16th and 20th centuries, and had been taken in 16 separate robberies over the past two decades.

The pieces have "inestimable historic, artistic, and religious value", the Art Squad, as the police unit is known, said in a statement. 

READ ALSO: How Italy's Art Squad is racing to save quake-damaged masterpieces

Among the most important pieces recovered were five altarpieces from two churches in L'Aquila, which were closed due to damage in a deadly 2009 earthquake from which the city is still recovering.

Nicola Candido, one of the officers involved in the operation, told press "we are particularly proud of the recovery of the altarpieces taken from the earthquake-hit zone".

You can see some of the rescued pieces in the video below.

L'Aquila's mayor thanked the police for the recovery, and said he hoped the artwork would be returned to the city.

Police found the art in villas along the Amalfi Coast, and have charged three people over the thefts.

The Carabinieri's Art Squad, dubbed the "blue helmets", was founded in 1969 to combat art and antiquities crimes, and helps train art police in other countries.

In the aftermath of deadly quakes in the central regions of Italy, the officers raced to rescue and restore damaged artworks from churches and other buildings damaged by the tremors.

READ ALSO: Built by Caligula and smuggled to the US, a long-lost Roman mosaic finally returns to Italy



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