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Thieves steal medieval rood panels

16 August 2013


Before: the screen before the damage

Before: the screen before the damage

THIEVES have hacked away and stolen two rare 15th-century panels from an oak rood-screen, and badly damaged a third. The attack on Holy Trinity, Torbryan, an isolated church near Newton Abbott, in Devon, was described as "devastating" by the Churches Conservation Trust, which maintains the building.

The two stolen panels, depicting St Victor of Marseilles and St Margaret of Antioch, were cut from their surround with a large-bladed or Stanley-type knife. The thieves are believed to have abandoned their efforts to steal a third image of a female saint, but damaged it in the process.

The 15th-century church remains consecrated, but is rarely used for worship. It has no CCTV or modern security systems, and is looked after by volunteers. The paintings disappeared between 22 July and 8 August. It is not clear whether the thieves broke in overnight, or stole them during opening hours.

The paintings were once part ofa rood screen containing 40 panels, and are rare survivals of pre-Reformation figurative painting. An art historian with the Churches Conservation Trust, Dr Neil Rushden, said: "This is the best example of this type of panels in this country. They are as unique and priceless as a Turner or a Rembrandt. In effect they're unique, and that makes them priceless pieces of art."


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