Plundered religious tapestry returns to its home country during District ceremony

April 20, 2013

A 600-year-old tapestry stolen from a Spanish cathedral was returned to Spain last week in a ceremony at the Washington residence of Spain’s ambassador.

The tapestry was turned over Wednesday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an investigative arm of the Homeland Security Department. Officials said ICE had seized the tapestry in Houston last year after it was sold at an auction.

To a degree, the ceremony, held at a time of intense efforts to find suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, was a demonstration of the scope of federal law enforcement.

The wool and silk tapestry depicts the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus, along with three saints. Once an altarpiece in a cathedral in Roda de Isabena, the item was stolen in 1979, ICE said.

Before being sold to a business in Texas for $369,000, the tapestry had made stops in Italy, France and Belgium, ICE said.

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