Art sleuth Arthur Brand discovers stolen ‘Precious Blood’ relic


After 20 years of recovering artefacts and priceless art from around the world, Dutch art detective Arthur Brand thought his career had reached its peak. He wondered how any case could outshine the ones that came up a stolen Picasso or the pair of bronze horses made for Adolf Hitler, once thought to have been destroyed by the Soviet military.

But then the doorbell rang.

When he opened the door on the night of June 21, the street was dark and completely empty – except for a cardboard box containing an artifact that had inspired legends, pilgrimages and prayers for more than a thousand years. A millenium. Carefully, Brand carried inside the stolen reliquary the “Precious Blood” or “Precious Blood” in French – an ornate, jewel-encrusted vessel that protects two lead flasks with pieces of linen believed to be sprinkled with the blood of Jesus. .

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How an item from Jesus’ crucifixion ended up in Brand’s Amsterdam home is a story of miracles, attacks, kings, saints and a mysterious theft that police have yet to unravel. was able to decipher. But it begins near the Normandy coast more than 1,300 years ago, when a fig tree trunk was used to hide the relic of Roman invaders that washed up on the beach at Fécamp, according to tradition.

It took a few centuries for the lead flasks to be discovered, but an abbey was erected on this site in 658 AD. However, it was later destroyed in Viking attacks. The following structures faced fires and wars, until the Abbey of the Holy Trinity, which still exists, was built around 1175. Since then, the church has kept the relic of the “precious blood” – until a group of unidentified thieves seized it with metallic liturgical dishes, works of art and chalices on June 2.

French authorities believe the thieves locked themselves inside the church – which has no security system – at night, then broke through a door the next morning, Le Parisien reported. Le Havre Bishop Jean-Luc Brunin considered it “an unbearable attack on the faith of all those who remember the Salvation obtained by the sacrifice of [Jesus]”, according to the outlet.

But around two weeks after the robbery, Brand – who deals in art consultancy but works closely with police when undertaking investigations – received an encrypted email from someone claiming to be a friend of the thieves. The person said they had the artifact in their home after the thieves unloaded it.

“They gave me the option ‘Either we throw him out or you make sure he goes back to the Abbey,’” Brand said. “Of course I said yes. So they told me they were going to bring it to my house next week.

“I was like, ‘This is a joke,'” he added. “Like something out of a Dan Brown novel.”

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Brand suspects the thieves have begun to feel the brunt of stealing a sacred relic. Not only could they have been frightened by the prospect of being cursed, but they also likely realized that selling the coins would be next to impossible, he said.

Brand pointed out that it’s rare for stolen artwork to be recovered – most estimates place the figure below 10%. “And that’s because stealing art isn’t that hard, but selling it is. Nobody wants to touch illegal art, and then the thieves think the police [are] on them, so they end up destroying it, throwing it into the sea or melting it.

After showing up at his door, the gilded copper reliquary with images of Jesus painted with cerulean blue accents remained in Brand’s home for about a week while the detective verified its authenticity. In a moment of closeness to the sacred object, which is usually reserved for clerics, Brand said he peeked inside the shrine and saw the lead vials containing the blood – “J hope God can forgive me for that one, but I had to make sure it was all in there,” said Brand, a Catholic.

Dutch and French authorities have yet to make any arrests or publicly identify any suspects. But they are now coordinating the object’s return to the abbey – which delighted Brunin, who told Le Parisien ‘we feared it was gone forever’. Still, before handing over the relic to the police, Brand said he was adopting his holiest demeanor.

“I didn’t swear for a week, and I put a towel around my waist if I went in the shower and had to go to my room – you know, so I wouldn’t be naked in front of this relic” , did he declare. “If anyone came, I warned him to behave like a saint.”

Despite the pressure, those moments alone with the relic brought a feeling of immense reverence. There he was, a self-proclaimed “ordinary guy who sometimes has these great adventures” in the presence of something so sacred to many. For Brand, these are the examples he cherished most throughout his career.

“My greatest satisfaction is in the few days that I am alone with such a beautiful piece,” he said. “Whether it’s Oscar Wilde’s ring…the blood of Jesus or many other famous pieces I’ve collected, being alone with them for a few days is priceless.”

That’s the feeling Brand has after recovering hundreds of ancient paintings, sculptures and artifacts through Hollywood-style investigations, earning him the nickname “Indiana Jones of the world of art.” ‘art”.

However, he doesn’t necessarily agree with that.

“Harrison Ford is a very handsome guy,” Brand said. “I’m more like Inspector Clouseau from Peter Sellers – I follow the wrong suspects and make stupid mistakes. But that said, some of the adventures we engage in, like the horses and even this one, have a bit of Robert Langdon, Indiana Jones.

Last week, Dan Brown – author of “The Da Vinci Code” whose novels follow the adventures of protagonist Langdon – shared a story about Brand and the “Precious Blood” with his 5.9 million Facebook followers.

“Art sleuth will forever be a cool job title,” Brown wrote.

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