Thursday, 24 April 2014

Almost 40 stolen statues to return from Austria

22 November 2012

Prague, Nov 21 (CTK) - Thirty-nine statues that were stolen in the Czech Republic and exported will return to the country from Austria next week, the Culture Ministry says on its web page, adding that it will present them at a press conference after which they will be returned to the original owners.

The Culture Ministry was locked in a lawsuit for the wooden and sandstone statues from 2008.

The middleman now must hand out all statues without any compensation. The total price has been set at 159,800 euros.

The Austrian police found the statues in home searches. The stolen objects come from sacral and other places all over the Czech Republic.

The statues were released on the Czech police's Internet search portal as stolen works of art.

The Culture Ministry says this has been the biggest case it has dealt with since 2004.

Hundreds of thousands of works of art have been stolen from Czech churches and chapels since 1989 when the previous regime collapsed and the border opened.

Up to 90 percent of 5500 sacral buildings have been broken in.

The works of art appear in the shops of foreign antiquarians and at plastic art auctions. The search for them is within power of the National Heritage Institute (NPU).

Last week a baroque statuette of an angel by Ignac Frantisek Platzer from 1752 from the St Michael Church in Utery, west Bohemia, that was entered in the list of missing works of art, was to be auctioned off in Vienna. Shortly before the auction it was withdrawn from the catalogue.

The NPU identified the statuette when it was put up for auction in Germany in 2009 already. Its German owner bought it in good faith and the investigation was halted, according to the Czech police.

All effort to regain the statuette failed because it was stolen and sold before December 31, 1992, when the European directive on returning unlawfully exported cultural items was not yet in force.

The statuette could be regained by means of civil law, but the original owner did not assert his claim before the court.

On Tuesday, however, Plzen Bishop Frantisek Radkovsky and Filip Zdenek Lobkowicz, abbot of the Premonstratensian monastery in Tepla, both west Bohemia, prepared a request for the return of the statuette.

The Utery church historically belonged to the Premonstratensians, but it is now administered by the Roman Catholic parish.

At the time of the theft of the statuette the Plzen diocese did not yet exist. It was only established in 1993.

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