France returns marble angels stolen from Italy church in '89

A pair of 17th-century marble angels that decorated a southern Italian church are back home on Italian soil

Italy’s art police said Tuesday that the angels, decorated with strategically placed vine of leaves and fruit, had been stolen from the St. Sebastian church in Guardia Sanframondi, northeast of Naples, on Dec. 13, 1989. Police said the collector was ignorant of the angels’ origin and offered to return them without any legal fight.

They were formally handed over Tuesday to Italy at a ceremony at the French Embassy.

In a statement, the carabinieri noted that churches in the area had been subjected to numerous thefts after the 1980 Irpinia earthquake leveled huge swaths of southern Italy.

The police noted that another set of angels, similarly reported as stolen in the carabineri’s database, was recently returned to another Guardia Sanframondi church after they were located in a Milan antiques shop and recognized by the church pastor.