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Sunday, 20 October, 2002, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
'Priceless' relic stolen from monastery
Prinknash Abbey
The statue may have been stolen as the monks ate
A priceless 15th Century wooden statue of the Madonna and Child has been stolen from a monastery.

Benedictine monks at Prinknash Abbey, near Gloucester, fear the Flemish oak statue may have been taken for a private collection.

The 20-inch monument was originally given to the monks when they were based on Caldey Island, near Tenby, west Wales.

It is thought to have once belonged to Sir Thomas More, at the time of Henry VIII.

Personal loss

"It is too distinctive ever to be sold on the open market and we believe it has been stolen for a private collection," said Father Stephen, one of the 18 monks who live and work at the Abbey.

"I feel a deep sense of personal loss.

"There is a vacuum here now that it has gone.

"It has been the focus of our devotion and prayer for the last 77 years."

The dark oak statue was in the Abbey Church at the monastery and was taken at about 1930 BST on Friday, while all the monks were at supper.

"We are sure that the thief knew what he was looking for because although this piece was the most valuable and important in the church, it was by no means the most eye-catching," said Father Stephen.

"There is a statue of St Benedict which is more noticeable but it was not taken."

Blow to community

He said the Madonna and Child statue was presented to the community in 1925 when it was based at Caldey Island.

The monks took it with them when they moved to Prinknash, near Painswick, in 1928.

"This theft is a great blow to the community and we would appeal to anyone with any information about its whereabouts to contact the police," said Father Stephen.

Prinknash Abbey is best known for its pottery, which was run by the monks until they sold it in 1996 to The Welsh Porcelain Company.

Gloucestershire Police had no comment to make on Sunday.


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