Stolen Catalan cross recovered 42 years later

Stock image of Mossos d'Esquadra. Credit: Robson 90/

A specialised unit of the Catalan police force, known as Mossos d’Esquadra, has recovered an ancient Gothic cross 42 years after it was stolen from the church at Sant Martí Sarroca near Barcelona in 1982. The recovery comes after the cross was identified by two historians as listed to be sold at the Setdart auction house for a starting price of €10,000. 

A Perfect Crime?

In May 1982, thieves broke into the church by forcing the door open and stole a number of objects housed in a building dating back to the 12th century, ABC reports. Along with the Gothic cross, two chalices, a Catalan Romanesque jewel, and an ivory crucifix were also stolen. So far only the cross has been recovered. 

Just In Time

The Mossos were aided in the recovery of the priceless cross by two doctoral students at the University of Zaragoza who specialise in gothic crosses. They alerted the police after finding the cross listed on Setdart, with bids forecasted to reach up to €30,000. If the students hadn’t acted fast, the cross might have been sold, writes ABC, as the auction was scheduled for just two days later. 

Unanswered Questions

The Heritage Unit of the Mossos d’Esquadra is made up of eight agents, and works to protect Catalan cultural heritage by recovering and safeguarding priceless and historic pieces. A sergeant with the Mossos told ABC that the person who had listed the cross was the heir to a Barcelona family who had had it in their possession for the past thirty years. The individual, however, could not explain how the cross had come into the family’s possession. 

“We have not been able to find out who took the piece from the church, but the main objective is not to find the author, because the theft has expired, but to recover the historical material,” Mossos Sergeant José Luis Ulloa told ABC.

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Written by

Cole Sinanian