Arthur Brand, a Dutch art historian known as the “Indiana Jones of Art” for his work as an art crime investigator, recovered ancient Catholic relics this week when the pieces were left on his doorstep.
The relics, lead vials known as the Precious Blood of Chris, were stolen in early June from the Fécamp Abbey Church in Normandy, France, where they had been housed for the last 1,000 years. The vials are said to contain drops of the blood of Jesus Christ, taken when he was hanging on the cross. The theft came just a couple of weeks before the “Mass of the Precious Blood” ceremony during which pilgrims descend upon the abbey to worship.
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After the relics were stolen, Brand was contacted by email by someone tangentially connected to the theft.
“When they realized what it was, that you in fact cannot sell it, they knew they had to get rid of it,” Brand told the AFP. He suggested, even, that the person who contacted him feared divine retribution. “To have the ultimate relic, the blood of Jesus in your home, stolen, that’s a curse.”
Brand told the contact that they should leave the relic on his doorstep and ring the doorbell. In his interview with the AFP, he explained that it would be “too dangerous to involve the police.” Besides, “These people know my reputation and that the most important thing is to return this to the church. Hopefully it will stand for another thousand years,” Brand said.
Once his contact agreed, he waited at home night and day, waiting for the package to arrive.
“A couple of days later, at 10:30 in the evening, the doorbell rang. I looked from my balcony outside and in the dark I saw a box. I ran down the stairs, afraid that someone would take the box. Outside I looked around, but there was no-one there,” said Brand in an interview with the BBC.
Brand turned the relics over to the police Tuesday, who will then return them to the abbey. He feels confident that they’re the real deal.
“Religious objects are almost impossible to forge,” he told the AFP.