Cyprus got quite a gift this weekend: a sixth-century mosaic that had been stolen in the '70s from a church about an hour outside the country's capital. The BBC reports that Arthur Brand—an investigator known as "the Indiana Jones of the art world"—recovered the Byzantine rendering of St. Mark in an apartment in Monaco, in what he now says was "one of the greatest moments of my life." It wasn't such a great moment for the UK family that had the mosaic in its possession, which Brand tracked down after almost two years on the artwork's trail. The family had "bought the mosaic in good faith more than four decades ago," Brand tells the AFP, and they were "horrified" to find out the piece's origins and how it had been plundered.
On his website, Brand explains how Turkish forces rushed into Cyprus in 1974, wiping out churches and monasteries, and either destroying priceless pieces of art or selling them on the black market. All of the other artwork has since been accounted for, but the mosaic from the Panaya Kanakaria church had remained at large. CNN notes that Brand has found hundreds of pieces of missing art during his career, including two bronze horse sculptures that once belonged to Hitler. The St. Mark's mosaic was handed over to Cyprus' antiquities arm and the Church of Cyprus at a Netherlands ceremony at the Hague on Sunday, the Cyprus News Agency reports. The former owner, meanwhile, received a "symbolic compensation" for caring for the mosaic all this time. (Brand is on the case of the biggest art heist in the US.)