By Malcolm Moore in Rome
Last Updated: 2:00am GMT 23/01/2008
Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio, Torino
Satanists have struck at one of Turin's most famous churches, stealing a vial of holy water and a missal, or prayer book.
The items were taken from behind the altar at the Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio, or Church of the Great Mother of God, at the end of last week.
A source at Turin police said a special team of carabinieri military police are investigating the break-in, and that the "most likely explanation" was that "the items were stolen to be used in a rite of black magic".
The holy water, from the river Piave, was in a crystal sphere which was around 14 inches wide. It was mounted on a marble base. The missal was around 20 years old and was lying on a prayer stand.
Father Sandro Menzio, the priest in charge of the church said the job had been done by professionals.
"They forced open exactly the right door and took their targets in the most rational way. They also avoided setting off the alarm. The things they stole were just symbolic, so it is difficult to find an explanation for their behaviour," he said.
An artist's impression of a Satanist
Experts in the occult said the church, which was built in 1814 to celebrate King Victor Emanuel I's return to Italy, is one of the most important sites in the cosmic battle between white and black magic.
Sitting on the banks of the river Po, it forms one point of a "triangle of good" and is linked to other points in Lyons and Prague.
Twin statues stand at the base of the stairs leading up to the doors of the church, representing Faith and Religion. The statue of Faith holds a chalice in its hand and is looking at the location of the Holy Grail, which is buried in the city, according to legend.
"This church is full of important symbols to practitioners of the occult," said Giuditta Dembech, the author of Turin: Magic City.
"But only the theft of the prayer book makes any sense. You can organize a black mass with the prayer book, but I do not know what the thieves would do with the water."
She added: "For the objects to have any power for Satanists, they would need to come from a church, and this is one of the most important magical sites."
Turin is said to lie on the 45th parallel, an invisible line that runs around the globe and is halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. But a "line of evil" also intersects the city, and connects it to London and San Francisco.
In the Piazza Statuto is a stone monument dedicated to workers killed while building the Frejus rail tunnel linking Italy and France. Atop the monument is a crown-wearing figure believed by some to be Lucifer, the rebel angel.
The city allegedly has the highest concentration of Satanists in Italy.
The Piazza Statuto, a short way away from the church, is a shrine to devil-worshippers, who believe that the gateway to hell lies underneath. Thousands of criminals and deviants were executed in the piazza in Roman times, because it was believed to be a cursed place which often lay in shadow.
The city's reputation as a battleground between good and evil has also been boosted by the fact that Nostradamus, the French seer, chose to briefly live in Via Michele Lessona in the 16th century.
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