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Last Updated: Friday, 25 August 2006, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
Da Vinci coders vandalise church
St Luke's, Hodnet
St Luke's Church has links to the Holy Grail story
Treasure hunters trying to crack the Da Vinci Code are believed to be behind criminal damage at a village church with links to the Holy Grail.

Chisels and hammers were used to chip away at walls inside St Luke's church in Hodnet, Shropshire.

The church has attracted many visitors including tourists from overseas after its links to the Holy Grail were featured in a book and website.

The Reverend Charmian Beech said: "They seemed to know what they were doing."

A number of holes were chiselled into the stonework of the Grade I-listed 14th Century church in the nave, near the choir vestry door and by a stained glass window.

There is nothing really left to find at Hodnet Church, apart from God
The Reverend Charmian Beech

That window has helped fuel the church's links to the Da Vinci Code because there is a feminine-looking St. John - one of the major themes of the best-selling novel by Dan Brown.

The Rev Beech said: "We are not sure what they were looking for.

"There is nothing really left to find at Hodnet Church, apart from God. We are fed up with it."

Stained glass depicting St John
A stained glass window shows a feminine looking St John

The church also features strongly in The Chalice of Magdalene, written by "historical detective" Graham Phillips.

In it, his search for the Holy Grail leads him to St Luke's and the stained glass window. The story also features on the author's website.

The Rev Beech said they had always welcomed visitors to the church, but would have to review security and may have to fit CCTV cameras.

Author Mr Phillips said of the vandalism: "I think it is disgraceful what has been done to the church.

"In my opinion whoever did it is not only despicable but stupid.

"There is no point anyone searching in Hodnet church because the cup that the stained-glass window code alluded to has already been found."

Nothing was taken but the damage could cost thousands of pounds to repair. Police are investigating.

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