Medieval panels stolen from English church


Another English church has been targeted by thieves, who stole two panels from a 15th-century oak screen at Holy Trinity Church in Torbryan and damaged a third.

Holy Trinity Church Damaged Panels - photo courtesy Churches Conservation Trust

The theft occurred sometime in the last two weeks when the Devon church, which is no longer used for services, was open to the public. The panels which were stolen depict St Victor of Marseilles and Saint Margaret of Antioch, are part of a series of 40 panels on a medieval rood screen.

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of the Churches Conservation Trust told media “Two of the panels have been viciously hacked out, leaving great big gaping holes. These are fantastic examples of craftsmanship of the time. We think that this was probably the best preserved medieval rood screen in the country.”

He added, “Holy Trinity is a beautiful public building much admired around the country and beyond, this crime will deprive all visitors and researchers of an important part of Devon heritage and is essentially a theft of public property. We hope that by publicising the loss we might be able to recover the panels.”

Torbryan Holy Trinity Church Panels before damage - photo courtesy Churches Conservation Trust

Dr Neil Rushton, an art historian for the Churches Conservation Trust believes that the medieval panels may have been stolen because of their rarity. He told the Herald Express, “Paintings of God, Mary and the Apostles are two to a penny in English churches which is why it is possible these thieves targeted lesser saints as they are much rarer. This is the best example of this type of late medieval art in the country. They are as unique and priceless as a Turner or a Rembrandt. These panels are irreplaceable. They are intrinsic and indigenous to this church. This theft devalues the whole church.”

Local police have informed antiques dealers and auction houses about the stolen objects, hoping that thieves might try to sell it, but it might be more likely that the crime was done for a private collector.




The Holy Trinity, Torbryan from bartleby on Vimeo.

See also: Relic Robbing: Church’s Medieval Treasures in Jeopardy?

Sources: Churches Conservation Trust, This is Devon, The Telegraph, BBC

Sharan Newman