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Bucharest (dpa) - Romania decided Friday to return the country's oldest museum including a priceless art collection, the Brukenthal Palace in the Transylvanian town Sibiu, to the protestant parish from which it had been expropriated in the Communist era.
The move paces the way for the restauration of the Barock palace and the proper conservation of the collection of old master painting.
Sibiu has been selected as European Capital of Culture in the year 2007.
Among the museum's 1150 paintings are master pieces such as "Maria Magdalena by Caracciolo (1578-1635), and "Ecce homo" by Tizian (1490- 1576), and the 1200 prints and drawings include works by Albrecht Duerer (1471-1528).
The museum also houses a library with about 280,000 rare books and about 600 pieces of antique furniture.
Former owner Baron Samuel of Brukenthal had opened the palace to the public in 1790, when he governed the Transylvania under the Habsburg empire from 1777 to 1787.
Brukenthal was renowned as an art collector, savant and scholar of the Enlightenment.
The protestant church plans to run the palace as a museum in conjunction with the government.
However, the building was in a desolate technical condition and the oil paintings were at risk from fumes leaking from the ancient heating system, local protestant priest Kilian Doerr told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
Doerr said he expected tough negotiations with the state over the management of the museum. The church wanted to award the management of the museum to an international professional board of trustees, he explained.
Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH