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German church seeks return of €1 million in stolen art

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German church seeks return of €1 million in stolen art
The stolen altar art by Lucas Cranach. Photo:DPA
16:59 CEST+02:00
German church officials are demanding the return of two pieces of Reformation-era altar art worth an estimated €1 million and stolen out of a village church almost 30 years ago.

The two altar wings by Lucas Cranach, a contemporary of Martin Luther, turned up in a Bamberg antique shop last year after being stolen 28 years ago from a church in Klieken, a small town near Wittenberg.

Wolfgang Philipps, a senior official at the regional Protestant church in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, told MDR Info news radio on Wednesday the church would negotiate with the antique dealer to get the pictures back.

Philipps said church officials would be willing to compensate the dealer – but declined to say how much. Though valued by police in Bavaria at €1 million, the works were priced in the shop at €100,000.

“I don't think it the art dealer would be particularly comfortable advertising a picture labeled as ‘stolen from the Klieken Church,'” Philipps said.

The regional daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung quoted Bamberg's senior prosecutor as saying the statute of limitations had expired on the original theft and that it would be impossible to prove the dealer had concealed stolen goods. The works had been passed down from the antique shop's previous owner.

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