Italian authorities are investigating the theft of a 17th-century painting from an earthquake-damaged church, one of the first suspected victims of looting from last month's quakes that have sent officials racing to recover priceless artworks before thieves and the elements get to them.
The national police unit charged with protecting cultural treasures said Monday that the 1631 painting "Pardon in Assisi" by French painter Jean Lhomme was stolen from a village church in Nottoria. The work was well-known among historians.
The parish priest, the Rev. Marco Rufini, told news agency ANSA that the thieves apparently ignored the risk of the church collapsing on them when they cut the painting from its frame, "adding injury to injury."
The earthquakes on Oct. 26 and Oct. 30 collapsed buildings across a broad swath of a region already reeling from a deadly August quake. One of the iconic images of the devastation is the basilica of St. Benedict of Norcia, built over the birthplace of the patron saint of Europe, where only the facade remains standing.
While the main priorities have been tending to the estimated 30,000 people left homeless, authorities have also begun recovering artworks from the more than 182 quake-damaged or destroyed churches in the area, said the archbishop of Norcia and Spoleto, Monsignor Renato Boccardo.