Hermann Mayrhofer, curator of the Leogang Museum, with cross
A valuable cross dating to the Middle Ages has turned up in a trash bin in Austria.
Police in Salzburg say a woman looking for old crockery in a trash container in the western Austrian town of Zell am See stumbled upon the precious piece in 2004.
They say she apparently she had no idea of it’s value and just stashed it behind her couch.
Now experts say the cross could be worth as much as $575,000. …
The Austria Press Agency quoted police official Christian Krieg as saying the woman found the cross after a hotel owner who lived in Zell am See died and his home was being cleared by relatives.
The woman showed the cross to the niece of the dead man, but the niece didn’t want it and allowed the woman to take it, the news agency reported.
Last month, one of the woman’s neighbours had an inkling the cross might be something special and took it to a local museum in the village of Leogang.
The curator, Hermann Mayrhofer, alerted police. An investigation disclosed that, until the Second World War, the cross had been part of an art collection belonging to Izabella Elzbieta of Czartoryski Dzialinska, Poland.
Before the outbreak of war, Elzbieta tried to hide the piece from the Nazis by concealing it in the cellar of a building in Warsaw. But the Nazis found it in 1941 and later brought it, along with other items from Elzbieta’s collection, to a castle in Austria. It is unclear what happened next.
This summer, the cross was taken to Vienna for analysis but it has now been returned to the museum in Leogang. Experts at Vienna’s fine arts museum determined that it comes from Limoges, France, and dates to about 1200.