Vatican monsignor dies, leaving behind mysterious art collection | Crux

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by
Vatican monsignor dies, leaving behind mysterious art collection
The Euphronius Krater. (Credit: Wiki commons.)

ROME – As Pope Francis continues to press his campaign for financial reform in the Vatican, a new reminder of why the campaign for transparency matters has arisen with a mystery surrounding an extensive art collection left behind by an elderly monsignor who died over the holidays.

The body of Italian Monsignor Michele Basso was discovered in his Vatican apartment on Jan. 6, the feast of the Epiphany, believed to have been the victim of a cardiac arrest related to advanced age. Basso had served as one of 24 canons of St. Peter’s Basilica, meaning senior clergy who celebrate Masses and lead prayers at the basilica.

Basso was also an avid art collector, and therein lies the tale. Some years ago, Basso bequeathed to the Fabbrica of San Pietro, the administrative office for the basilica, 30 fireproof containers which hold a vast treasury of roughly seventy paintings, sculptures and other precious objects, mostly on religious themes, the market value of which has never been assessed.

The collection also contains a finely executed copy of the famous “Euphronius Krater,” an ancient Greek terracotta bowl that had been illegally excavated from Italy in 1971 and held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in new York until it was repatriated in 2008. The copy in Basso’s collection supposedly was made in the early 19th century, but since the original was lost at that point, it’s not clear how a copy could have been made – leading some to speculate that perhaps Basso’s version actually is the original.

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Vatican monsignor dies, leaving behind mysterious art collection | Crux

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