Parts of the Treasure of Sovana Disappeared Under Mysterious Circumstances

In 2004, an important treasure of late antique solidi was discovered in the abandoned church San Mamiliano (left). In 2012, a small museum was established in the premises, where a selection of the finds was shown. Photo: Björn Schöpe.
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The small town of Sovana in southern Tuscany has been known for centuries as the birthplace of Pope Gregory the Great. Now, Sovana is also known in numismatic circles because a late antique coin treasure was found there. It is one of the most important of its kind in Italy, both in terms of scope and historical value. Parts of this treasure were stolen sometime before the 9th of November 2019.

The burglars only partially managed to open the showcase, which is why they left 17 coins behind. Photo: Björn Schöpe.

An Important Source For the 5th Century

During excavations in 2004, archaeologists found 498 solidi in a vessel under the ground of the abandoned church of San Mamiliano, largely in exceptionally good condition. The fact that most of the coins were minted in Constantinople was unusual. The oldest coins date from the time of Honorius, the most recent ones from the reign of Zeno; thus, the find covers almost the entire 5th century. Among the pieces were some still undocumented types, for example a solidus of Ariadne.

The treasure trove was comprehensively documented. In an Italian article, its value is given as about 4 million euros.

Since July 2012, 83 solidi from the treasure trove have been kept in a small museum, which was established directly at the place of discovery.

In the exhibition the 83 originals were complemented by photographs of other important finds. Photo: Björn Schöpe.

How Was It Possible For the Treasure To Be Stolen?

The circumstances of the crime remain mysterious. The theft was discovered on November 9, 2019. It is unclear when exactly 66 of the 83 gold coins were stolen. During the winter months the museum is open only on Saturdays and Sundays. There were no signs of burglary, possibly one of the perpetrators had himself locked up. Apparently the burglars managed to partially open the coin showcase with a lock pick. They were unable to access 17 gold coins and therefore left them behind. The media are reporting an alleged market value of around 400,000 euros for the stolen pieces, but there are neither photographs nor an official list.

Another mystery is why the alarm system did not trigger an alarm. The investigators cannot access the video surveillance data because the servers were stolen.

The investigations are carried out by a Carabinieri special unit responsible for the protection of cultural property.


Roberto Ganganelli has written and published a detailed article on Cronaca Numismatica, including photos of coins from the treasure.

On the website of Manciano Promozione you will find information and pictures about Sovana.