A BRITISH aristocrat has been forced to return a series of priceless 7th century Spanish treasures he was using as garden ornaments.
It comes after an art detective discovered the Visigoth sculptures covered in mould and leaves at the back of the British lord’s estate.
Dutch historian Arthur Brand found them at the unnamed aristocrat’s land, having spent eight years tracing them around Europe.
The limestone sculptures, engraved with Catholic saints, were stolen from a medieval church in Burgos in 2004.
“The thieves wanted to sell them and make a lot of money, but soon found such heritage was extremely difficult to sell,” Brand said. “So, they decided to sell them as garden ornaments.”
According to media, the 50kg pieces were bought a few years ago by the aristocrat, who was ‘entirely unaware’ of their background.
It is believed the aristocrat spent just €58,000 apiece for the ‘priceless’ works, which are worth millions.
“It is incredible that these priceless 1,300-year-old artifacts made for the Spanish sun were in their garden, exposed to the English rain,” said Brand.
The artifacts were returned to the Spanish embassy in London on January 21 and will be returned to the Santa Maria de Lara church, in Burgos, later this year.