Two 15th century painted panels from an oak screen which is one of the finest examples of its kind have been ripped out by thieves at a Devon church.
The loss at Holy Trinity in Torbryan
took place sometime between July 22 and August 8 and the Churches
Conservation Trust (CCT) is asking dealers and auction houses to be
on the look-out for any sign of the panels, showing St Victor of
Marseilles and St Margaret of Antioch.
A third panel of a female saint was also
damaged, and CCT - the national charity protecting historic
churches at risk - said the theft of the c.1460-70 designs was a
"great blow to the church".
The oak screen represents a variety of
saints and church dignitaries. The CCT stated: "The artistry is of
a very high status, suggesting that the artist was specially
commissioned to produce the panels for the screen.
"Even though some of the panels have been
missing for many years, the Torbryan screen represents an
exceptionally complete survival from the late medieval period that
escaped the worst excesses of the iconoclasts who took down most of
the screens in the country during the Reformation, especially those
that included representations of saints".
CCT chief executive Crispin Truman said: "I
was shocked to learn of the theft of these panels and the damage
done to this significant art work. Holy Trinity is a beautiful
public building much admired around the country and beyond, and
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."
Holy Trinity has been in the care of CCT
since 1987, and is looked after by a small volunteer team who live
locally and help the organisation to open, clean and care for the
Other panels from the screen were also
stolen in 2003 and are unrecovered.
ATG reported on a spate of church thefts
last year, mostly from the Oxfordshire, Herefordshire and