Thieves using a blow torch forced their way into a Naples church and made off with hundreds of 19th-century shepherd statues from a Nativity scene, police said Monday.
The figures, most of which were 40 centimeters (15 inches) tall, were stolen from a creche set up inside San Nicola alla Carita' church in central Naples, said Cesare Nalli, of the Carabinieri paramilitary police in the city.
The thieves, who only took statues of shepherds, leaving other figures behind, got in through a side entrance.
Nalli said he didn't know how much the statues were worth, but Italian news reports said the total value was Ђ1 million (US$1.3 million).
Displaying Nativity scenes in the weeks before Christmas is an old tradition in Italy, with some of the most elaborate ones in Naples. Several streets in the historic heart of the southern city are lined with craft shops selling hand-carved or manufactured creche figures for home collections, with many of the pieces fetching hundreds of euros (dollars) each, reports AP.
The pastor of the church was not immediately available for comment.