Medieval crucifix found in Austrian rubbish skip

VIENNA Thu Aug 16, 2007 11:27am EDT

1 of 2. An 800-year old crucifix made from gilded copper sheet and enamel, possibly worth around 400,000 euros ($539,000), is displayed in a museum in Leogang in Austria's province of Salzburg August 16, 2007. The crucifix was recovered from a rubbish skip by an Austrian woman.

Credit: Reuters/Martina Puehringer

VIENNA (Reuters) - An 800-year-old, gold-plated crucifix that went missing after being seized by the Nazis has been found in a rubbish skip in Austria, police said.

The crucifix, made of copper and enamel, was crafted in Limoges, France, and was part of a Polish art collection brought to Austria during Nazi rule, Josef Holzberger, police spokesman in Salzburg, said on Thursday.

It was found in 2004 in the lakeside winter resort of Zell am See by a woman combing through a skip filled with the discarded possessions of a neighbor who had just died.

"The lady had a soft spot for old crockery and was rummaging for plates when she found the crucifix," said Holzberger. "She asked the deceased's family, and they said she could have it."

Last month the woman showed the crucifix to a friend who realized it might be something special and took it to a museum.

In the run-up to World War Two, the owners of the crucifix had hid it and other treasures by walling them inside the basement of a house in Warsaw.

They were discovered by the Nazis in 1941, brought to the Polish National Museum and later transferred to a castle in the Austrian village of Bruck an der Grossglocknerstrasse, near Zell am See, police said.

"We lost track of what happened then -- we don't know how the crucifix ended up in Zell am See," Holzberger said.

The crucifix might be worth up to 400,000 euros ($539,000) at auction. Poland's culture ministry has contacted the London-based Commission for Looted Art in Europe, which represents the heirs of former art collectors, Holzberger said.

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