/EFE) The original design painting of the Brazilian flag, a 19th century canvas by painter Decio Villares, was stolen from the church where it had been kept in Rio de Janeiro, O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper said.
It is thought that the thieves may have stolen the picture taking advantage of the powerful storm that lashed the region last April and caused part of the roof of the Humanity Temple, home of Rio's Positivist Church, to collapse.
The head of the congregation, Danton Voltaire Pereira de Souza, told the daily Tuesday that he had reported the disappearance of the picture to the police, but he provided no further details about the theft.
The Humanity Temple, which dates to 1897, is protected as part of Rio de Janeiro state's heritage and has a library with 16,000 volumes, as well as a bust of French philosopher Auguste Comte and several personal items once owned by the founder of positivism, De Souza said.
The Brazilian flag, adopted in 1889 by the new republican regime, was designed by the positivist philosophers Raimundo Teixeira Mendes and Miguel Lemos and painted for the first time by Villares.
The original design of the flag is composed of a green rectangle, a yellow rhombus and, in its centre, a blue sphere in which are 21 stars, one for each Brazilian state in 1889, and the slogan 'Order and Progress'.
Since then, the design of the Brazilian flag has only been modified to add one star for each new state that has been created by carving up other formerly larger states, and it now has 27 stars.