Czech statue of ‘topless’ Virgin Mary stolen

Czech firm offers Kč 0.5 mln reward for safe return of its controversial statue depicting a half-naked Virgin Mary 

Society
Brian Kenety | 20.09.2011
Not all townsfolk will miss the sculpture of a half-naked Virgin Mary; a civic initiative to remove it was founded by those who find the depiction offensive

Thieves have made off with a rare 2.5-meter bronze Czech statue depicting the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary — in a state of undress. The unconventional statute, created by Prague sculptor Pavel Purkrábek, had been perched on a hilltop overlooking the town of Bohdaneč in the Kutná Hora region since 2007.

Forestry firm Less & Forest has offered a half million crown award for information leading to the arrest of the thieves and safe return of its statue, which police say was pried from its base late Monday evening. A Kutná Hora police spokesman told the Czech news agency ČTK that both the statute and its base were damaged.

Not all townsfolk will miss the half-naked Virgin Mary sculpture; though consecrated by the bishop of Hradec Králové, Josef Kajnek, a civic initiative to remove it was founded by those who think the depiction objectionable (and perhaps even sacrilegious).

Sold for scrap? 

There is concern the statue could be sold for scrap metal on the black market, which is doing a brisk trade in the Czech Republic thanks to soaring global prices, emboldening thieves to go after everything from copper wire cables to objects d’art — and even an entire four-tonne iron railway bridge near the city of Cheb, bordering Germany.

In April 2008, the problem, which has plagued the country for years, made international headlines after 327 bronze markers were stolen from the Jewish cemetery at Terezín (Theresienstadt), a historic fortress town used by the Nazis in World War II to create a “model” ghetto for Jews. Thought at first to be the work of neo-Nazi vandals, the plaques ended up being traced to a scrap-metal dealer.

In November 2010, a bronze statue by Marie Uchytilová depicting a girl who perished in a concentration camp was also stolen from the memorial site in Lidice to children from the town deported and killed following Nazi reprisals for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the wartime deputy Reichsprotektor of Bohemia and Moravia, by Czechoslovak paratroopers trained in Britain.

Czech parliamentarians passed a law in 2008 aimed at curbing the problem of metal theft by making it harder for thieves to offload their swag at scrap yards, and requiring merchants to keep written descriptions of purchases and the sellers. Some towns across the country are now experiencing a rash of metal gutter thefts, with owners who invested in fancy aluminium pipes often among the victims. 

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