Astonished church leaders are celebrating the miraculous return of 16th-century panels of saints stolen from an altar more than 40 years ago.
The Renaissance artworks disappeared from the Church of Santa Maria, in the municipality of Barcial del Barco, in the province of Zamora, in the Spanish region of Castile and Leon, in 1979.
One showed Saint John the Evangelist and Saint Peter, while the other featured Saint Andrew and Saint James the Great.
Representatives of the Civil Guard handed over the panels to the church in a presentation with the Bishop of Zamora and officials from the Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute and the Ministry of Culture.
Both panels were removed from the predella, the platform on which the altar stands, over four decades ago.
According to the Civil Guard, the panels were created in 1540 and bear the coat of arms of the Duke of Benavente.
The current owner handed the painted panels over to the authorities in good faith and they were verified as the stolen artefacts with the ID-Art mobile app.
Thanks to the app’s state-of-the-art image recognition software, the scan was checked against Interpol’s Stolen Works of Art Database and the information was brought to the attention of the Historical Heritage Section of the Civil Guard’s Central Operational Unit.
The investigation into how the panels came into the possession of the current owner is still ongoing.