The alderman from Gent, Jacobus Vijd, asked the Brothers Jan and Hubert Van Eyck to paint a triptych for the chapel of the Saint-Jan-Church in Gent. This triptych was finished in 1432. The population and the digniteries of the city were very proud; they celebrated this happening more than once.
It’s a great miracle that all the panels are still all together because they survived some turbulent times : the iconoclastic fury (the panels were hided), the French Revolution (where they were hided somewhere else), some panels had been sold and then bought back, the Treaty of Versailles, the Second World War (where the Germans took the panels), they were even kept a while in a salt mine in Alt-Aussee. All the panels returned to the Cathedral in 1945. But, during the night of 10th and 11th of April 1934 the famous panels “The fair Judges” and “John the Baptist” were stolen. The Bishop of Gent received a blackmail letter signed with the initials D.U.A…
The result : A lot of investigations, many searches and negotiations. But they didn’t find them back. The blackmailer couldn’t agree with the church.
The most important suspect was an exchange broker, Arsene Goedertier, from a little village named Wetteren. When he died, he claimed to know exactly where the panels were hidden. But in fact there was no result and even many years later, people were still guessing, searching for possibilities…
Even today, there is still a big interest for the famous triptych in the Cathedral of Gent. Especially foreign tourists and students are interested in the paintings and their great history. The stolen panels never returned, they were replaced by beautiful reproductions.