Steal Caravaggio’s “The Shepherd’s Worship of Saint Marshall” Francis and Lawrence. Did the Priceless Painting Eat Pigs?

Shepherds worship the saint. Francis and Lawrence Caravaggio’s brush is now estimated to be worth about $20 million. However, the rivet has not seen the painting since October 1969, when it was stolen from a chapel in Palermo. What happened to the work of the Baroque master? Could it have ended up in the stomachs of hungry pigs?

painted by Caravaggio Shepherds worship the saint. Francis and Lawrence In 1609, that was about twelve months before his death. At that time, he wandered the cities of the Mediterranean basin in search of refuge from the Roman judiciary, which had been on trial since 1606 for murder.


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The unknown perpetrators

As emphasized by Joanna enyk-Barszcz and Przemysław Barszcz in the book entitled Secret Gallery. What artists hide in their masterpieces “Wherever he went – he painted. His escape route was marked with paintings of churches and churches. It was no different in the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily – Palermo.

The work, commissioned by the Franciscans, hangs in the Basilica of Saint Lawrence, Oratorio di San Lorenzo. He decorated it for the next 360 years. Until October 18, 1969, unknown assailants, under the cover of night, broke into the temple, cut the canvas from the frame, wrapped it in a rug and took it in a direction known only to them.

Church of the Oratorio di San Lorenzo. From there he began the worship of the shepherds of St. Peter. Francis and Lawrence. There is currently a copy of it (Effems / CC BY-SA 4.0).

extortion attempt

No one has seen him since then Shepherds worship the saint. Francis and Lawrence. However, there were many hypotheses about who was behind the theft and what might have happened to the Caravaggio cloth. From the first moments of the investigation, suspicion fell on the Sicilian mafia. In Joanna enyk-Barszcz and Przemysław Barszcz’s book, we read that:

A letter reached the parish priest, Benedetta Rocco, a few months after the theft. “We have a picture,” the thieves wrote. They suggested a deal. If church officials are interested, they will advertise in local newspapers.


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The criminals did not wish to conceal their identity with any personal communications at this point. The parish priest informed the Director of Cultural Affairs of everything.

Church authorities decided to negotiate with the alleged thieves and put an appropriate advertisement in the press. Soon another message arrived. This time there was a piece of cloth in the envelope. “It was a section covered in brown paint, perhaps a portion of the ground on which the characters stood.”

The article is an excerpt from Joanna Schenick-Parszcz and Przemyslaw Parszcz's book, Secret Exhibition.  What artists hide in their masterpieces (Zona Zero 2022).
The article is taken from the book Secret Gallery. What artists hide in their masterpieces (Zona Zero 2022).

A note was also attached, the authors of which stated that “if you want to get along, post another ad”. However, the clergy were no longer interested in further negotiations with the Cosa Nostra.

This is what Father Rocco said about those events at the beginning of the twenty-first century. His account was also confirmed by Antonella Lampona, whose mother was a parish priest’s housekeeper.

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In the hands of the drug director?

Over the years, the identity of the perpetrators has also been debated. in this book secret gallery We read that, inter alia, reference was made to:

(…) Drug lord Gaetan Badalamenti. The influence of this Sicilian gangster in the 60s spread to the United States, where he began to sell his goods, which translated into incredible income.


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Antonella Lampona was in favor of this option. A few years ago, an informant in the Italian police also confirmed that it was Badalamentia who was behind the theft of the work of the Baroque master. The bandits later sold it to a Swiss art dealer. According to this interpretation, the painting is still found in the Alpine country.

Cut and burn?

In turn, according to the testimony of 1989 by the Italian mafia Francesco Marin Manoia, pseudonym Mozzarella, the theft was ordered by a wealthy collector. However, when the dealer saw the condition of the plate, he withdrew from the deal.

Francesco Marin Manuña claimed that the painting had been cut and burned (Public Domain).
Francesco Marin Manuña claimed that the painting had been cut and burned (Public Domain).

As Joanna Schnick-Parszcz and Przymyslav Parszcz explain, “It was completely destroyed by improper handling.”

Layers of paint and varnish create a hard, inelastic crust on the canvas, so the picture cannot be rolled up under any circumstances. This attempt should end with cracking of the work along the fold axis, the formation of voids, and the coating layer on large surfaces will be destroyed.

According to Mozzarella, the image, which was already of no value to the gangsters, was finally cut out and burned.


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Ate by mice and pigs?

Another version of events was presented by the operator Gasparo Spatuza for the nose of the kosa. The mafia, who had dozens of victims in his conscience, went to cooperate with the authorities. He asserted that after the painting was stolen, it was changed owners several times and was eventually hidden in a shed. There, he would have fallen victim to rats and pigs, which devoured him almost completely.

Journalist Peter Watson also wrote about the destruction of the precious cloth. in his book Caravaggio’s conspiracy In 1980, he said, he almost bought the business from the mafia in exchange for drugs and weapons.

However, the whole deal was thwarted by…a devastating earthquake hit southern Italy at that time. According to Watson, he also disappeared into the rubble Shepherds worship the saint. Francis and Lawrence.

Or were they amateurs?

In addition to the topic of the mafia, the variant was also considered that the robbery was carried out by whole amateurs. A TV show broadcast a few weeks before the break-in was supposed to encourage them to act.

Shepherds worship the saint.  Francisco and Lawrence Caravaggio (Public Domain).
Shepherds worship the saint. Francisco and Lawrence Caravaggio (Public Domain).

Caravaggio’s works were displayed there with their estimated value. Under the influence of information, perhaps someone came up with the idea of ​​getting rich easy – but only in theory. However, this turn of events appears to be the least likely.

Speculation about what happened to the board can be multiplied almost endlessly. Authors secret gallery Calculate:


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(…) One of the mafiosi swears that the bosses used the board as a rug to emphasize their power, another claims that he saw it being destroyed with his own eyes, etc. There is one common denominator connecting a large part of all accounts – business ruin.

Considering that more than 50 years have passed since the theft and so far no one has found a trace Shepherds worship the saint. Francis and Lawrence Its destruction, unfortunately, seems very likely.

Read also about the mysterious death of one of the greatest French artists. It wasn’t a rare genetic disease that killed him

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