Photo courtesy of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

HSI Houston special agents seize stolen 16th century tapestry
Dec. 7, 2012

HOUSTON – U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations special agents last month seized a 16th century tapestry stolen from Spain.

The tapestry depicts the Virgin Mary and Saint Vincent of Saragossa. It was produced in the 16th century and was part of the cathedral’s collection that was declared a national monument by royal decree in 1924.

It was stolen in December 1979 from the cathedral in Roda de Isabena, Spain.

In January 2010, the tapestry was put up for sale at the Brussels Antiques and Fine Arts Fair in Brussels, Belgium. It sold at auction for $369,000 to a business in Houston, Texas. The Spanish Civil Guard’s Heritage Protection Group learned of the sale. After investigating, it obtained a court order, and under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty requested assistance in recovering the stolen property.

The tapestry was seized in November from a local business under an HSI initiative called “Hidden Relic” designed to investigate, recover and repatriate stolen cultural property.

St. Vincent lived in the 3rd century and was martyred around a 304 because of his faith. Ravens guarded his body from vultures and then took watch over his grave, until 1173, when he was dug up and moved to Lisbon. He is the patron saint of wine makers and vinegar makers.