A “very moving” moment: the relic of the “Precious Blood of Christ”, stolen in June 2022 and found a few weeks later in the Netherlands in incredible conditions, was returned on Wednesday to the abbey church of Fécamp, in Seine- Maritime. “I am experiencing something that is not permitted in the life of an elected official. These relics are our history, a medieval history,” the mayor of Fécamp David Roussel told the press.

On Wednesday, the gold reliquary, one of the most sacred objects ever stolen from the Catholic Church, was presented to around a hundred faithful during a mass at the Fécamp abbey church, where it has been kept since 12th century. It will then be placed in an undisclosed location. “We cannot say everything about strengthening security measures. We were supported by the regional directorate of Cultural Affairs and state services to protect the abbey church and the sacristy,” said the first deputy mayor, Pierre Aubry.

The Bishop of Le Havre expressed his “gratitude to the investigative services which made this restitution possible”. “The relics of the “Precious Blood” are the sensitive support of faith, of their faith in Christ for the faithful. I express my satisfaction for the Christian community but also for the city of Fécamp,” continued the religious. The sacred object, about 30 centimeters high, contains two metal vials containing drops of Jesus’ blood collected during the crucifixion, according to believers. A source of worship for Catholic pilgrims for almost a millennium, it was stolen from Fécamp on the night of June 1 to 2, 2022, two weeks before the annual celebration of the “Mass of the Precious Blood”.

The reliquary was found a month later in the Netherlands by an art detective, Arthur Brand. He explained to AFP in mid-July 2022 that he had been warned by e-mail by an anonymous sender claiming to have the stolen loot in his possession. A cardboard box was then placed in front of his door, after a doorbell rang on the night of July 1st. In addition to the reliquary, the box also contained several copper liturgical plaques, depictions of saints and an ornate goblet, also stolen from the abbey church, according to the Dutch detective.

“This restitution illustrates the power of States when they act together and it testifies to the importance of international cooperation networks. The strategy of international distribution of stolen goods has borne fruit, making the stolen goods unsaleable and forcing the receivers to part with them,” said Colonel Hubert Percie du Sert, head of the Central Office of fight against trafficking in cultural property. The fear of investigators in cases of theft of works of art is that the objects go “very quickly into international receiver networks”. But, despite the investigations carried out by the OCBC and the territorial direction of the judicial police of Rouen, “no one has been implicated for the theft of the objects at this stage”, added the colonel.

“The technical and scientific police work that has been carried out has yielded nothing at this stage but elements have been collected. This could allow us to move forward again in the weeks, months or years to come,” said the director of the Rouen judicial police, Fabien Lang.