CHURCH officials at St Mary’s Cathedral are set to conduct a security review of the historic building after a thief made off with a painting from its altar.
The culprit snatched the artwork from the centre of the altar at the New Town cathedral in a theft branded a “violation” for worshippers.
Reverend Canon John McLuckie, its vice provost, said that security arrangements for other artefacts would now be assessed to ensure they were kept safe.
But he confirmed that the cathedral would not be changing its “open door” policy in the wake of the incident.
The painting, depicting the Holy Trinity and created by Peebles-based artist Michael Jessing, was stolen between April 25 and 26.
Police have appealed for information on the where-abouts of the painting, which was donated to the cathedral by the artist in 2006 and measures roughly 40cm by 30cm.
Rev Canon McLuckie said: “It’s a traditional icon style and was based on the famous Rublev Trinity icon from Russia. One of the vergers spotted that it was missing. It was in such a prominent place that we were surprised that this has happened.
“I’m not sure how it was secured but, because of its location, I think it was overlooked. Anyone stealing it would have to go right up through the altar rails so we believed it would be unlikely to be stolen. There’s nearly always someone around, so a thief would probably be spotted.
“The altar gates are normally shut but they are not locked. The altar’s prominence was believed to be its security.”
Renowned as Scotland’s largest cathedral, St Mary’s was consecrated in 1879 and has been open daily for public and private prayer ever since.
The cathedral was targeted by metal thieves three times between October 2010 and February 2011, leaving a repair bill of around £28,000.
Rev Canon McLuckie said: “Fortunately, we’ve not had many thefts from inside the church over the years.
“This won’t stop us from keeping our doors open. It’s such an important part of the cathedral that it’s accessible. We will have a meeting to discuss security.
“We’re very keen to get the painting back. It was on the altar so it was obviously very central to the cathedral. It was a focal point in the interior.
“There is a sense of violation that it’s been taken.”
Pc Kris Harvey, from Police Scotland, said: “While the estimated cash value of the painting is relatively low, it has a significant spiritual value to those who worship at the cathedral, and we are appealing for any information that can lead to its return.
“Anyone who was in the vicinity of St Mary’s Cathedral between April 25 and 26, who noticed anyone acting suspiciously, should contact police.”
Anyone with information can contact Police Scotland on 101.