The reliquary containing two lead ampulla, themselves containing a few drops of the Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, was returned a month and a half after the sacrilegious theft committed in the abbey church of Fécamp on the night of June 1-2, 2022. Nevertheless, this rapid restitution is not trivial, even if the light remains to be shed on many points.
The restitution was made through a Dutch art detective, who is not unknown: Arthur Brand, a 52-year-old Dutchman, nicknamed “the Indiana Jones of the art world,” a not-undeserved title.
He is particularly known for having found a painting by Picasso, an Oscar Wilde ring, and the famous life-size bronzes Hitler's Horses. These two life-size horses that stood in front of the entrance to the Chancellery in Berlin, was the work of Josef Thorak, one of the two official sculptors of the Third Reich. Arthur Brand produced a book from this investigation.
The detective reported that the thieves confided in him that they feared the curse they would bring upon themselves by harboring the stolen blood of Christ. But the reality could be much more prosaic.
The role of the detective actually begins a few days after the theft, when he receives an email from an anonymous sender claiming to have the stolen goods in his possession. “This person approached me on behalf of another, from where the stolen relics were stored,” says Arthur Brand. But, he continues, “to have the ultimate relic, the blood of Jesus, in one's house, stolen, is a curse.”
And, a detail that seems decisive, when the thieves realized what they had stolen were “unsaleable” relics, they understood that they had to get rid of them, he adds. The email, written in Dutch, asked the detective to take back the stolen items because it was too risky to return them to the abbey themselves.
The anonymous sender then warned Arthur Brand that the goods would be deposited at his home, without specifying the date. The detective believes the thieves wanted to go through him to return the items because “it would have been too dangerous to involve the police.”
On the night of July 1, a box was placed in front of the detective's door, who was alerted by the ringing of the doorbell. The box contained the reliquary as well as other items stolen at the same time: copper liturgical plaques, representations of saints, and an ornate goblet.
The most important thing is that the relics have returned to its place in the sacristy of Fécamp Abbey for at least another 1000 years. The French investigation has not however been closed and gray areas remain, particularly about what happen to the treasure since its theft and return.
The reliquary will be handed over to the French police after verifications by the Dutch police in order to assist the investigation which is continuing on the soil of both countries.
As the detective finally told AFP, getting his hands on the relic of the Precious Blood of Christ was a particularly extraordinary feeling for him. The theft of this “legendary piece” was “a huge shock,” says Arthur Brand: “as a Catholic, it is a case of being as close to Jesus and the legend of the Holy Grail as possible.”
It should be noted that this last affirmation forgets that Holy Communion brings us closer to Jesus Christ much more than contact with any relic, however venerable it may be.
However, the reliquary will probably not be returned to Fécamp before September according to Msgr. Jean-Luc Brunin, Bishop of Le Havre, especially since the installation of an alarm system will have to be seriously studied.