IT was like a mystery straight out of the pages of the Da Vinci Code when a panel of the Great Tapestry of Scotland was stolen from the walls of an art gallery and was never seen again.
But now the missing panel - which depicted the history of the ancient Rosslyn Chapel - has been painstakingly recreated by its original stitchers and restored to its rightful home with the rest of the tapestry.
The section, which tells the story of the Apprentice Pillar at Rosslyn Chapel, was taken by thieves while the artwork was on display in Kirkcaldy Galleries in September 2015.
Police worked to trace the missing piece, part of the longest tapestry in the world, but were unable to do so.
Now, the panel, one of 160 in the work, each of which took about 500 hours to create with more than 300 miles of woollen yarn, is to be part of the continuing exhibition tour before being displayed with the rest of the tapestry at a new arts centre in Galashiels.
The replacement panel has been created over the past year by the seven original stitchers, all of whom live in or near Roslin. Together, Margaret Humphries, Jean Lindsay, Anne Beedie, Jinty Murray, Barbara Stokes, Fiona McIntosh and Phillipa Peat worked for hundreds of hours to embroider the replacement.
Ms McIntosh said: “We were all devastated that our panel had been stolen, but we are happy now that it has been remade and delighted that it will once again take its place with the rest of the tapestry.”
The brainchild of author Alexander McCall Smith, the tapestry tells the story of Scotland’s history and has been touring the country since it was completed in 2013.
A total of 1,000 stitchers - more than 40 of them called Margaret - worked on the original design.
The new panel closely resembles the original, but “some subtle design differences” have been added.
Project historian Alistair Moffat said: “What the women of Roslin have achieved is something remarkable: not only have they refused to let the miserable people who stole the original panel win, they have also poured all their love and labour into creating a stunning new panel of the Apprentice Pillar that is even more powerful.
“Their panel will have a special place in my heart and it will join its companions in the new building to house the tapestry in Galashiels.”
Rob Dickson, Scottish Borders Council’s corporate transformation and services director, said: “The Great Tapestry will be a catalyst for creating a destination of national and international significance, and will help to strength the existing textiles innovation and heritage community in the area.”
He added: “It’s very exciting when a new panel is completed, reminding us all about Scotland’s unique and compelling story, and the important role this plays in our economy through tourism.”
The tapestry has been admired by more than 350,000 people since its creation four years ago.
Future exhibitions are planned at the Spiers Centre in Alloa from 29 May to 18 August 2017, and at the Verdant Works in Dundee from 26 August to 22 October 2017.
Galashiels will be the permanent home for the Great Tapestry of Scotland from 2020. A permanent visitor centre will be created in the Borders for the unique community arts project.