A tourist who stole fragments of the ancient city of Pompei 15 years ago returned the items, claiming they were ‘cursed’.
The Canadian, identified only as Nicole, sent a package containing two mosaic tiles, amphora parts and a piece of ceramic to a travel agent in Pompeii, southern Italy, along with a letter of confession.
Nicole, who was in her early twenties when she visited Pompeii Archaeological Park in 2005, blamed the theft for a series of woes she suffered in the years that followed, including having had cancer breast twice and experiencing financial difficulty.
“Please take them back, they bring bad luck,” she wrote.
At the time of the theft, she said that she wanted to have a piece of history that “no one could have” but that the relics had “so much negative energy … related to this land of destruction”.
Pompeii was buried in volcanic ash after the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 and was buried until the 16th century, when its rediscovery transformed the understanding of life in the classical world.
The ancient site is one of Italy’s most visited attractions and for years has had to contend with the problem of tourists stealing it.
Nicole wrote in her letter that she had learned her lesson and wanted “forgiveness from God.”
“I am now 36 years old and have had breast cancer twice,” she says. “The last time ended with a double mastectomy. My family and I also had financial problems. We are good people and I do not want to pass this curse on my family or my children.
Nicole is not the only one to repent. The package contained another confessional letter from a couple, also from Canada, as well as stones stolen from the site in 2005.
“We took them away without thinking of the pain and suffering these poor souls experienced during the eruption of Vesuvius and their terrible death,” they wrote. “We’re sorry, please forgive us for making this terrible choice. May their souls rest in peace. “
Over the years, so many stolen relics have been returned to the site, along with letters of guilt, that park officials have established a museum displaying the artifacts.
Most of the time, tourists want to keep the relics as souvenirs, but some thieves have also tried to sell pieces of Pompeii online. In 2015, a brick extracted from the ruins in 1958 was put up for sale on eBay.