A 780-year-old treasure honoring St. Anthony of Padua has been stolen from a Southern California Catholic church.
The relic, which is normally kept under lock and key, was brought out by the Rev. Jose Magana because he thought it might help his parishioners regain their faith during the difficult economic climate. In a bit of bitter irony, St. Anthony is known as the patron saint of lost things. Following news of the theft, web searches on "st. anthony stolen" and "who was st. anthony" both surged.
The relic was taken at some point on Monday, "the feast day of the church's namesake." According to a buzzy article from the AP, the relic was likely stolen at some point between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. When the parishioners realized the relic had been taken, there was an audible gasp in the church.
A police lieutenant said "the relic is housed in a 16-inch reliquary case with angel-shaped handles made of gold and silver on either side." The reverend called the relic invaluable," according to the AP.
Of course, this isn't the first time thieves have stolen historical artifacts. In fact, the FBI has an entire team dedicated to art theft. Sometimes the pieces are found, sometimes they aren't. In 2002, thieves stole two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh from his museum in Amsterdam. The paintings, which were never recovered, are valued at around $30 million. Law enforcement is still pursuing leads.
Perhaps the most brazen theft came in 1911, when Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa was stolen right off the wall at Louvre in Paris. Believe it or not, it took authorities a day to even realize the painting had gone missing. Soon after, a huge search was conducted. The painting was recovered in 1913 after two years.
"The Scream," the world-famous masterpiece by Edvard Munch, has been stolen multiple times. The most recent theft occurred in 2004 when armed criminals marched into Oslo's Munch Museum and left with the painting. It was recovered in 2006. Just last year, a pre-Columbian figure went missing from Mexico before being recovered in California by Customs and Border Protection.
According to TIME magazine, a huge heist occurred in 1990 when two crooks dressed as Boston cops tied up museum guards and took several paintings valued at $300 million. The artworks were never recovered, leading some to call it the biggest art heist ever, and others wondered if the thieves destroyed the art in an effort to hide their guilt.
Hopefully, with some help from St. Anthony, the relic won't stay missing for long.
(Photo of the relic: Reuters/courtesy Los Angeles Archdiocese)