September 8th, 2009 | 11:48 am
It seems incredible to imagine the Nazis weren’t more concerned with saving themselves in the face of the Western Allied advances that followed the successful landings at Normandy than adding to the vast quantities of stolen works of art they had assembled after more than 5 years of theft. But in fact, the Bruges Madonna, Michelangelo’s only sculpture to leave Italy during his lifetime, was only the latest in a high profile string of thefts.
The Bruges Madonna, was stolen by Nazi officials on this date 65 years ago from the Notre Dame Cathedral in Bruges, Belgium. It was no doubt destined to join the other masterpieces stolen by the Nazis for Hitler’s planned Führermuseum in Linz, Austria. The two ton marble statue, almost life-like in size, was no easy work of art to maneuver. But out it left, in the middle of the night, for places east, back in the Fatherland.
By the time the Monuments Men arrived in Bruges, just days later, they were astonished to discover it was gone, doubly so that they had missed saving it by a sliver of time.
Find out what happened to the Bruges Madonna, and thousands of other priceless works of art, in my new book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.