Art World's 'Indiana Jones' Recovers Relic in Surprising Way

Anonymous person gave to Arthur Brand stolen vials said to hold blood of Christ
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 21, 2022 5:55 PM CDT

Thieves were inconspicuously locked inside a French church on the evening of June 1. According to police, they burst out the next morning with one of the most cherished Christian relics: two lead vials containing pieces of linen said to be covered in the blood of Jesus Christ—collected in the Holy Grail during his crucifixion—and housed inside a jewel-encrusted, copper-gilded reliquary. Officials at the Holy Trinity Abbey in Fecamp, which had held the relic for nearly a millennia, were devastated. As less than 10% of stolen art is recovered, per the BBC, there was little hope for a reunion. Yet less than three weeks later, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand opened his door to find the "Precieux Sang," or "Precious Blood" relic inside a cardboard box on his doorstep in Amsterdam.

"It was a religious experience," he tells AFP. "This is about as close to Jesus and the legend of the Holy Grail you can get." A week earlier, Brand had received an encrypted email from a supposed friend of the thieves who said they had the relic in their possession but that returning it to the church was too risky. "If you can do this for us, you can put this on your legacy," the email read, per Artnet News. Dubbed the "Indiana Jones of the art world," Brand has recovered plenty of amazing pieces, from a stolen Byzantine mosaic, to a missing Pablo Picasso painting, to a gold ring tied to Oscar Wilde, to a pair of huge bronze horse statues adored by Adolf Hitler. "Of course, I said yes," he tells the Washington Post. "So then they tell me that they were going to bring it to my home sometime the next week."

Finally, the doorbell rang. "I looked outside. I could see nobody, but I saw a box," he tells Artnet. "Then I started to believe it was real." The sanctity of the item was clear to the Catholic, who spent a week verifying its authenticity. He refused to curse or be naked in front of it. And "if anyone came over, I warned them that they had to behave like saints," he tells the Post. He notes the thieves either feared bad luck or realized they would find no buyer for such a sacred relic, which he confirmed still contains the blood vials. Dutch and French authorities are now working to return the relic, as well as recovered chalices and dishes, to the abbey, to the elation of Havre Bishop Jean-Luc Brunin. "We feared it was gone forever," he tells Le Parisien, which notes the events are "worthy of a Netflix series." (Read more Arthur Brand stories.)

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