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  Papal Bull by Pius IX returned to Italy

A papal bull is an official decree issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church. Approximately 21 x 12.5 in., this papal bull was issued by Pope Pius IX on June 24, 1862 and it is written in Latin in ink on vellum. A lead seal, or bulla, fixed to a strand of twisted threads, is attached to the bottom of the document through two slits. This bull was in the church of Santo Stefano di Scascoli in Loiano, near Bologna, Italy, until WWII. After the church was damaged in 1944, it was found in 1945 by American Army officer Wolfgang J. Lehmann of the 5th Army, who took it back to the USA as war souvenir. It was brought to the Foundation’s attention by Lehmann’s nephew Walter Lehmann, who worked with the Italian Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection unit to return the document to Italy.
Papal Bull w bulla.jpg


A papal bull, dated June 24, 1862, and issued by Pope Pius IX to Angelo Gamberini, nominated rector of the church of Santo Stefano di Scascoli, in Loiano near Bologna.

Circumstances of Loss:
The bull was kept in the church of Santo Stefano until the building was damaged in 1944. It was found in the rubble of the church by American Army officer Wolfgang J. Lehmann of the 88th Infantry Division, 5th Army and taken back to the United States.

On Tuesday June 6, 2023, the papal bull was handed over to Italian officials at the Italian Cultural Institute in New York City and will return to Loiano.

  Discovery and Research 

Wolf Lehmann circa 1943

The Monuments Men and Women Foundation learned of this document from Mr. Walter Lehmann, the nephew of Wolfgang Lehmann. “My uncle would have been pleased to know that a document that he rescued from the destruction of war is now on its way back home to the church where he found it 79 years ago,” said Mr. Lehmann. “I know he would want to encourage other veterans and their family members who may possess similar objects to follow in his footsteps and contact the Monuments Men and Women Foundation.”


Wolfgang John Lehmann was born in Berlin, Germany, on September 18, 1921. He volunteered for military service and was inducted into the US Army on August 20, 1942, in New York. After completing officer candidate school, Lehmann became a “Ritchie Boy”—enlisted men and officers, many German-speaking immigrants to the United States, that were used for interrogations and counterintelligence in the theater. He was attached to the 88th Infantry Division, II Corps in spring 1944 and remained with that division until the end of the war. In 1947 he was honorably discharged from US Army service with the rank of major, and in 1951, he entered the United States Foreign Service and began a long and distinguished career, including in Brussles, Germany, and Vietnam. He and his wife are interred in the columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Foundation was able to identify Pope Pius IX as the pontiff who issued the bull through the leaden seal, or bulla. The name of Pius IX could be found on one side, and the portrait images of Saint Peter and Saint Paul on the other. However, the text’s fading precluded us from being able to read the document further. It was then taken to the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, where the surface was studied through the lens of an infrared camera, exposed to UV-radiation, and scanned with XRF-technology. This allowed for a partial transcription of the text of the initial protocol of the document.

In February 2023, a high-resolution image of the document was taken to the Vatican Archives, where the text of the initial protocol was confirmed, and the bull identified by Monsignor Sergio Pagano and Lt. Sebastiano Antoci of the Carabinieri. They confirmed the document is addressed to Angelo Gamberini, who was being nominated rector of the church of Santo Stefano di Scascoli, near Bologna. This is included in the first line of the document which reads: “Dilecto filio Angelo Gamberini, rectori parrocchiali ecclesiale Sancti Stepahni de Scascoli nuncupati, Bononien. dioc...”

  Restitution Ceremony  

On Tuesday, June 6, 2023, at a ceremony hosted by the Italian Cultural Institute in New York City, the Monuments Men and Women Foundation announced the restitution of a papal bull issued by Pope Pius IX in 1862 and turned over custody of this document to Italian officials from the Carabinieri. This papal bull, an official decree issued by the Vatican, established the Catholic Church of Santo Stefano in Scascoli, just south of the city of Bologna, a church that is still in existence today.


“We are thrilled to return this papal bull,” said Anna Bottinelli, president of the Monuments Men and Women Foundation, “especially on this day, the 79th anniversary of the historic D-Day landings in Normandy, a major turning point in the war. Today also happens to be the 16th anniversary of the founding of our organization. I am grateful to all those who helped us in our research, from Eric Lee and his team at the Kimbell Art Museum, to Lt. Sebastiano Antoci of the Carabinieri Command for the Protection of Cultural Heritage, and Monsignor Sergio Pagano, prefect of the Vatican Secret Archives. Collaborations such as this are essential to the Foundation’s continued efforts to locate and return works of art and other cultural heritage missing since the end of the war.”


“Recovering artworks and historical documents involves regaining our history and identity,” stated Prof. Fabio Finotti, Director of the Italian Cultural Institute in New York. “It is also a way of reflecting on what has been destroyed by war".

The Foundation wishes to express its gratitude to Bank of America for a grant that helped fund a portion of the research, and Sondra and Toby Eoff who generously helped underwrite restitution costs.

  Learn More  

"We are extremely honored to be a part of the return of this papal bull, as it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect with the past, both in our Catholic faith and our country’s heroic service during World War II. Getting to be part of the collaboration between the Monuments Men and Women Foundation, the soldier’s family and Italian authorities for the return of this papal bull was a deeply moving experience we will never forget.”
Sondra and Toby Eoff


      Donate to our Restitution Fund    

Our team receives leads of works of art on a daily basis and is committed to researching each one of them.  Research can be very time-consuming and expensive. Financial support can contribute to adding professionals to our experienced team as well as off-set the costs involved with restitutions. 

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