Thieves use battering ram in cathedral robbery

Three masked thieves used a tree trunk strapped to a car as a battering ram to carry out a night-time cathedral robbery in southwestern France.

Described by Bishop Marc Aillet says as “a sacrilegious robbery”, the targeted church was the Cathedral Sainte-Marie d’Oloron, which is located along the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route to the tomb of St. James.

The thieves sawed through the iron bars that were protecting the cathedral’s chalices, ciboriums, and other objects used in the Mass. Some of the stolen objects date back to before the French Revolution (c.1789-1794).

The relics held in the cathedral and the tabernacle were not desecrated.

Nor was any graffiti used to deface the cathedral, which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.

Despite some people remaining tight-lipped about identifying or putting a value on the stolen items, others were not so discreet.

Keeping mum were Mayor Hervé Lucbéreilh and his officials.

Lucbéreilh said the thieves made away with “an invaluable treasure of golden vessels that was part of this cathedral” but gave no details of what was missing.

A town official said “we don’t want the thieves to know exactly what they have”.

However, local newspaper La République des Pyrénées says the cathedral treasury’s most valuable holding, a set of embroidered 16th century vestments given by King François 1, was among the stolen items.

Parish priest Fr Jean-Marie Barennes says the loss of  a”very beautiful cope” from the time of Francis I suggests the robbery was an inside job because it was the only vestment stolen.


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