NORCIA, Italy, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- A 17th century painting was stolen from a church in Italy destroyed by a recent earthquake, police said.
The painting, The Forgiveness of Assisi by French artist Jean Lhomme in 1631, was kept in the parish church of Nottoria, which is close to the town of Norcia in Perugia, the epicenter of a 6.6-magnitude earthquake on Oct. 30. The quake was the biggest to hit Italy in 36 years but it caused no deaths.
Police have not ruled out the possibility that the painting was taken to safeguard it against any future tremors.
"Our churches have been destroyed and they are full of artworks," the Rev. Marco Rufini told Rai News. "To add insult to injury, on top of the trauma of the earthquake we now have this despicable behavior."
Another painting, a 15th century fresco in Visso's town hall, Madonna in Trono by Paolo da Visso, was severely damaged by the rain this past weekend.
Rescuers have saved an urn containing the remains of Saint Benedict, the patron saint of Europe, and altar pieces and paintings.
Other cities around Italy have offered to keep the artworks for safekeeping.
About 500 soldiers are being deployed to the mountainous region to guard against further looting of paintings.
Police are attempting to recover the artifacts, which are being stored in a warehouse rented by the cultural heritage ministry.
Fire officers have erected large tarpaulins over the remains of the 14th century Basilica of St. Benedict in Norcia.