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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
'Lost' El Greco on show in Poland
A painting by Cretan-born artist El Greco that was accidentally discovered in Poland 40 years ago is finally going on public display.

The work, titled Ecstasy of St Francis, was discovered in a small church in east Poland during a routine check of historical artefacts in 1964.

But church authorities could not afford to exhibit it and also wanted to hide it from communist authorities.

It will now go on show at the church's museum in Siedlce from Friday.

All the time we believed that the great moment would come
Isabella Galicka and Hanna Sygietynska

The 16th Century masterpiece is one of the five most valuable artworks in Poland, although its precise value is not known.

It took 10 years to confirm it was an authentic El Greco.

Isabella Galicka and Hanna Sygietynska, who discovered the painting while working at the Polish Institute of Art, said they were delighted.

"All the time we believed that the great moment would come, we even had a photo of the painting stuck to our wardrobe in the Institute - we kissed it, saying prove you are the original," they said.

Mystery unsolved

The oil painting shows St Francis of Assisi, one of El Greco's favourite subjects, dressed in a brown robe, stretching out his palms bearing the stigmata.

The church museum has received lottery money and funding from private investors to install a security system designed to keep the painting safe.

It is not known how the painting ended up in Poland although one rumour is that a soldier in Napoleon's army left it at the church before the march on Moscow.

El Greco (the Greek) was born in Crete - his real name was Domenikos Theotokopoulos but he acquired his nickname after settling in Toledo, Spain.

He is best known for his expressive religious paintings and his portraits.

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