Thief swipes treasured chalices

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 16:55 05/09/2014

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A thief has got away with symbols of the Holy Grail from Dunedin's Catholic basilica – two chalices, one historic.

The treasured cups disappeared from St Patrick's Basilica, on Macandrew Rd, on Wednesday afternoon.

Dunedin police are investigating the disappearance of the two sterling silver treasures, a large chalice nearly 30cm tall that is used for everyday masses, and the other slightly smaller cup used for in remote masses.

Thieves are thought to have entered an unlocked side door of the basilica, through the nun's chancel, to remove the cups from a bench some time between 3pm and 4pm on Wednesday, just before they were due to be returned to a safe with two others, Basilica sacristan Jordan Knight, who cleans the cups daily, said.

Knight, who care takes the building, was devastated by the losses, saying he has searched the church "from top to bottom" for the treasures.

He said police had told him that anyone could have walked in and taken the chalices from the unlocked building.

The larger of the two originated from the former Dunedin North Dominican Hall and dates back to 1949, according to an inscription on the chalice.

"It’s irreplaceable. I’m sure it is,"  Knight said.

The larger cup, valued at about $500, had the letters I H S inscribed on the front.

He estimated the value of the smaller chalice, which had scrolled carving on its base, at under $400.

Knight is now pushing for the building to be locked, instead of remaining open to the public.

This week he had visited the city’s second-hand shops and jewellers, trying to track the cups down.

"I don’t think thieves would be silly enough to put them on the internet but you never know," he said.

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