One of the most treasured—and, indeed, one of the strangest—gold artifacts in France has been stolen from a museum.
The story behind this gold reliquary (something that holds a relic) and its former contents is the stuff of legend.
An Outrageous Museum Heist Goes Unsolved
Although they tripped an alarm during their brazen theft, the criminals have yet to be apprehended or even identified.
The intricate gold metalwork encasing was stolen along with a number of gold coins and a Hindu gold statuette. It had been moved to a special glass display only a week before being stolen.
English-language French news outlets around the world covered the story, from Australia to America.
The reliquary has been housed at the Dobrée Museum for well over 100 years and is considered by many to be a national treasure of France.
Authorities are pleading for the irreplaceable piece of history to be returned, but such a resolution appears unlikely.
The Incredible Legacy of Queen Anne of Brittany
Anne de Bretagne, the only woman to have ever married two different French kings, is the subject of the one-of-a-kind item.
It is made from approximately 100 grams of gold (a little more than three troy ounces) and is intricately fabricated with a crown adorned with fleurs-de-lis, the three-petal lilly from the old French coat of arms.
2014 marked the 500th anniversary of Queen Anne's death. By all accounts, she was a shrewd and independent woman, particularly for her time period.
In addition to the piece's rich artistic value, it rather incredibly was used to hold the preserved heart of Queen Anne.
Inscriptions on the container reveal the deep admiration the queen's subjects had for her:
"In this little vessel of fine gold, pure and clean, rests a heart greater than any lady in the world ever had. Anne was her name, twice queen in France, Duchess of the Bretons, royal and sovereign."
Moreover, her (second) husband Louis XII supposedly wept for eight straight days following her death. Her funerary ceremony lasted an astounding forty days.
The reliquary was buried with Anne's parents in Paris, as per her wishes.
Her heart was wantonly discarded from the vessel during the upheaval of the French Revolution. Luckily, the gold container itself was spared from destruction.
It has primarily resided in Nantes, the queen's hometown in Upper Brittany, for five centuries.
As the Duchess of Brittany in her own right, Anne married King Charles VIII just before her 15th birthday. After Charles's death, she was then wedded to his cousin King Louis XII in accordance with her original marriage agreement.
UPDATE (04/23/2018): French police have recovered the gold reliquary and other items stolen from the museum. Two suspects are in custody but two more are at large. The apparent motivation for the theft is "petty crime."
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