Tutela Patrimonio Culturale
The Italian Carabinieri's Command for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage
Italy, one of the largest artistic heritages in the world, possesses tremendous artistic and archeological wealth. Italy has long been victimized by art thieves and looters of illicit archeological sites. Approx. 2,000 art thefts are committed annually, worth more than $95 million (U.S.) to $150 million (U.S.). Forty percent of these thefts occur from churches, thefts also occur in private abodes, museums, and archeological sites located both on land and at sea.
During the 1960s, the Italian Ministry of Public Instruction became alarmed with the growing problem of stolen works of art (one major theft, Caravaggio's Nativity, which was stolen from the Oratorio di San Lorenzo in Palermo, Sicily, was committed in 1969; this masterpiece is still at large). This ministry proposed the creation of a military unit of the Carabinieri that would be dedicated to the protection of Italy's cultural patrimony.
On 3 May 1969, the eight man unit called the Nucleo Tutela Patrimonio Artistico was instituted. This was the first art crimes unit to be created in the world. The following year, UNESCO held a convention on cultural property protection in Paris, where it suggested that all member states initiate these types of specialized units. On 12 August 2001, the unit was re-named Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale and now has over 250 men in eleven regions of Italy. It is respected worldwide as the most sophisticated art crimes investigative unit in existence. All components of the Carabinieri's forces are at their disposal during the course of their investigations, recoveries, arrests and prosecutions.
The main office is in Rome and is called the Command. The Command is housed in a historic late Baroque building which was designed by Filippo Raguzzini (1680-1771). The Command Controls the computerized stolen art data base, which is continuously updated and includes more than 1.7 million objects.
The TPC have recorded over 630,000 thefts in the past 30 years. They have
recovered more than 185,000 art works and more than 450,000 archeological
The TPC often cooperates across borders, especially with similar types of units, such as those in the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Spain, to name a few. This cooperation embodies the spirit of E.U. legislation that recognizes the concept of both national and European cultural property, similar to the 1972 UNESCO convention's recognition of world patrimony.
The TPC has been awarded the following gold medals (medaglie d'oro) for
their fine work:
The official web site of the Tutela Patrimonio Culturale can be reached via our links page.