Valuable 14th century cross returned to Croatia after 50 years

ZAGREB, 27 July (Hina) – A silver-enameled and gold-plated processional cross from the second half of the 14th century has been returned to Croatia nearly 50 years after it was stolen from St. Francis’s Monastery in Zadar.
The cross depicts Zadar’s protectors, which proves that it was commissioned for the monastery. It was legally bought by the Italian Lia family and was kept until now at Amedeo Lia Museum in La Spezia, Italy, where it was first recognised by British researcher Donald Cooper in 2009.
“This is one of the cases of the restitution of very valuable heritage artefacts, and intensive efforts were made for over a year. Next Friday, after the necessary restoration, it will be returned to the monastery, where it will be permanently kept,” Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek told the press on Thursday.
She thanked everyone who was involved in the return, notably the Lia family, which bought the cross in good faith with all the necessary papers and are returning it without any legal proceedings.
“Their ethical, right and moral decision was key and the state will thank them adequately,” the minister said.
The details of the 1974 theft are unknown, but it is not rare for stolen items, after passing through several hands, to end up in an auction house with their origin established. Nowadays, thanks to data bases and digital connectivity, it is easier to check if an item is of suspicious origin.
The restitution of the cross proves that EU member states don’t cooperate only on light matters in culture but also when they are demanding, legally sensitive and financially valuable and when, in the end, everyone feels they have acted morally and justly, the culture minister said.
The return confirms the commitment of Croatia and Italy, of local and state authorities, to the respect for international conventions which encourage the return of stolen treasures to the country of origin, said Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman.
“Everyone was available. You can’t just take away a cross. That’s an invaluable treasure. There was also the question of its protection and transport,” he added.
Croatian Ambassador to Italy Jasen Mesić said it was a great honour to have the chance to come home with such an artefact. He is confident the people of Zadar and the visitors to the coastal city will be able to see this valuable find but, he said, with an adequate protection system, so that it is not stolen again.
(Hina) ha