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Icon theft suspect arrested September 23, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Police & Crime, Religion & Faith.
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elonaicon.jpg  Greek police have recovered a priceless 700-year-old icon stolen last month in a daring raid on a cliffside monastery.

Authorities arrested a Romanian national in Iraklion, Crete, yesterday who is thought to be the head of a gang that allegedly stole a priceless icon from a monastery in Leonidio, in the eastern Peloponnese. He revealed that the icon of the Virgin Mary was hidden in a house south-east of the monastery in Elona.

In August, a 700-year-old icon, which is said to have the power to work miracles, was stolen from the cliff-side Elona Monastery.

Police said that they found jewelry and other items that had been placed on the icon as votive offerings at the home of the 28-year-old suspect in Crete. Additionally, footage of the Monastery was also found on the suspect’s video camera.

The icon was not located but investigations are continuing in Athens where it may have been taken in order to be sold. Two other Romanian nationals were also questioned in connection to the theft yesterday in Tripolis, in the Peloponnese, and Kavala, northern Greece. Police have also alerted their Romanian counterparts to be on the lookout for the icon which may already have been smuggled out of the country.

The celebrated icon, which some say has miraculous powers, symbolised Greek freedom during a 19th Century campaign to expel the Turkish Ottoman empire.

The icon was found secreted in a hole in a thick stone wall in the house where it had been stored. According to the Public Order Ministry, the painting had not been damaged despite being cut from its wooden frame during the robbery on 19 August.

The deeply religious and superstitious people who worship at the Elona monastery attribute the discovery to the power of prayer. The Panagia, as the icon is known, is said to protect the inhabitants of the region and to cure the sick.

Dimitris Tsigounis, the Mayor of Leonidio, the nearest town, said he was very happy that the icon had been found and promised a ceremony at the Monastery next weekend to honour its safe return.

Originally the police believed the icon had been stolen to order for a rich collector, or on behalf of someone who was sick and hoped to benefit from its reputed powers. But, according to local legend, the miracles only work if the icon is safe in the small stone chapel high in the mountains of the Peloponnese.

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