A 16th-century gold case containing the heart of Anne of Brittany has been stolen from the Thomas-Dobrée Museum in the western French city of Nantes during the weekend. Robbers broke in through a window and got away with the six-inch oval case despite setting off an alarm.
Philippe Grosvalet, the president of the Loire-Atlantique department which owns the museum, said: “The thieves attacked our common heritage and stole an item of inestimable value. Much more than a symbol, the case containing the heart of Anne of Brittany belongs to our history.” According to him, the theft was particularly disturbing as the case had been saved from being melted down during the turbulent times of the French Revolution.
The reliquary, topped by a gold crown with nine ‘fleurs-de-lis’, the lily-shaped royal motif, is considered a masterpiece and had been displayed at the museum for more than 130 years. The inscription reads: “In small vessel / pure fine gold and world / lies a bigger heart / that oncques (= never) lady had the world / Anne was the name of her / in France twice Queen / Duchess of Brittany / Royal and sovereign / 1513.”
Catherine Touchefeu, a departmental counsellor, urged the robbers to return it. “If the thieves were motivated by the fact that it is shiny and made of gold, they should understand that its historical and symbolic value far outweighs its 100 grams of gold.”
Anne of Brittany was twice crowned Queen of France as the wife of Charles VIII of France and his successor Louis XII of France. She was the Duchess regnant of Brittany. After her death in 1514, she was buried alongside other French royals in the Basilica of Saint Denis. Her heart was placed in her parents’ tomb at the chapel of the Carmelite friars in Nantes, in accordance with her wishes.