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Austrian Priest With Alleged Sticky Fingers

February 23, 2021
figures with animals in a landscape

Philipp Peter Roos

Last May, during a routine inventory check, the custodian of a collection belonging to a Benedictine abbey in Kremsmünster, Austria, discovered that fifty objects, with a total value of approximately €300,000 ($360,780), were missing. The abbey, which dates back to 777 AD, amassed a collection of 2,200 paintings, 70 icons, 2,000 copper engravings, and early medieval antiques. Since the finding, 20 of the objects have been returned through dealers and private collectors; however, many remain unaccounted. On January 26, the case gained greater recognition when authorities turned to the public for help, publishing images of 21 pieces still missing, including paintings by Philipp Peter Roos and Johann Wilhelm Bauer.

The primary suspect is a former priest who cared for the collection from 1997 to 2017. While he had no authority to sell or lend these works, it is alleged that he sold the pieces to cover the cost of restoring others.

According to reports, This is not the first known theft at the medieval abbey. Its oldest painting, The Last Supper, by the artist Meister von Raigern and dated to around 1415, went missing in 2006. That same year, a book of astronomical drawings worth about €30,000 that was on loan to the abbey went missing during an exhibition there. The Kronen Zeitung reported at the time that the security cameras were defective—and the book had been replaced by a fake during the show’s run.

Hopefully, the missing items will find their way back to the abbey.

Source: Austrian authorities seek 21 works allegedly stolen by priest