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Cherub returns to church 17 years after it was stolen


Stift Heiligenkreuz | Facebook | Fair Use

Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP - published on 02/18/20

The priests of Heilgenkreuz Abbey, who oversee the Austrian church, welcomed the heavenly messenger back with open arms.

One morning 17 years ago, the pastor of the parish church in Gaaden, in the Mödling district of Austria, had quite a shock. He opened the church on May 13, 2003, only to discover that one of the cherubs that adorn the beautiful sanctuary dedicated to St. James had taken flight!

Now, almost two decades later, investigators have recovered the stolen heavenly messenger and returned him to the priests of Heiligenkreuz (Holy Cross) Abbey, who oversee the church.

The plaster sculpture is an original work of the artist Giovanni Giuliani (1663-1744). The artist lived at Heiligenkreuz Abbey in the Vienna Woods from 1711 until his death. Among the many works Giuliani undertook for the monastery are the extraordinary choir stalls of the abbatial church. The parish church at Gaaden was also redecorated by Giulani, including the addition of the stolen cherub, ca. 1735.

Valued at 15,000 Euro, the cherub was warmly welcomed back by Fr. Edmund Waldstein, OCist., the current pastor in Gaaden. Fr. Edmund says, “We are so happy to have the angel statue back. Angels are messengers from God, and I hope that the return of this statue will be a sign to the whole parish of God’s love for us.”

Austrian Federal Police (BKA) have been carrying out special investigations among antique dealers, and last Advent they discovered the cherub in a shop in Vienna. The shop owner, presumably innocent, has claimed she obtained the statue through a private purchase, where it had been part of a bequest.

While Heiligenkreuz is the oldest continuously occupied Cistercian monastery in the world, it is doubtless one of Europe’s most vibrant abbeys. Heiligenkreuz is marked by a renowned institute for theological and philosophical studies, beautiful monastic liturgy, and an engaging web presence. The approximately 100 monks of the monastery also care for 17 parishes in the region. 

Learn more about Heiligenkreuz by visiting their website.

Photo: Photo: Father Walter, who was pastor of Gaaden in 2003, and Father Edmund, who is now pastor in Gaaden, received the baroque angel sculpture back from district inspector Friedrich Sedlak.

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