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Crosier missing for six decades discovered on internet auction site

24 February 2023

Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania

A BISHOP’s crosier that was lost for more than six decades has been found for sale on an internet auction site.

The crosier, fashioned from copper by the American designer Samuel Yellin, was presented in 1921 to the Episcopalian Bishop of Pennsylvania for use on special occasions. But it disappeared in about 1961, and many believed that it had been lost for ever, while some doubting that it had even existed.

The current Bishop, the Rt Revd Daniel Gutiérrez, has, however, been searching for it since his election in 2016. In January, he received a tip that a crosier that fitted its description was up for sale. The listing made no mention of Yellin, but said that it had been presented in 1921 to his predecessor.

Despite uncertainty about its provenance, Bishop Gutiérrez placed a winning bid of $850. Once he had collected it, he was convinced of its authenticity. He told the Episcopal News Service: “I said, ‘That’s it.’ You get this feeling.” Yellin’s granddaughter, Clare, agreed.

The Bishop’s own crosier is a simple staff made of wood, but, he says, the Yellin crosier is far more significant. “A historic crosier has the life of the diocese [in it] and tells the story of the diocese and the bishops that carried it,” he said. “We have to remember our past, especially here.”

Pennsylvania was a founding diocese of the Episcopal Church in 1785. “We had no idea where it’s been since 1961; that was the last year in which references to the crosier could be found in the diocese’s archives.”

Why it disappeared and how it came to be on sale are still a mystery. The auction house declined to talk about the seller. One clue is on a piece of paper stuck in one of the staff’s ornamental florets, which suggests that it was sold in 2006 at a flea market in Allentown, 50 miles from the Bishop’s cathedral in Philadelphia.

Minor damage to the crosier is being repaired. “I can’t wait to get it back to see what it looked like in its original state,” the Bishop said. “The only thing I’m concerned about is how are we going to make sure that it doesn’t go missing again.”

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