St. Mary's Cathedral 2-ton bell $500,000 stolen

Posted by Shazy on Monday, October 24, 2011

St. Mary's Cathedral 2-ton bell $500,000 stolen, St. Mary's Cathedral bell stolen in S.F.The bell at St. Mary's Cathedral rang through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire. It survived when an arsonist torched the old cathedral in 1962. And although it was replaced with an electronic chime in the 1970s, for decades it stood strong on a wooden platform outside the rebuilt church.

But sometime in the last month, metal thieves made off with the 122-year-old, 2.7-ton bell.
"It is a very historic and valuable item, it is a memory of the Catholic Church in San Francisco," said George Wesolek, communications director for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. "It is kind of an ignoble end for the bell if they succeed."

Nobody realized the bell was missing until Sunday morning. A parishioner mentioned that it wasn't where it was supposed to be, a secluded outside corner of the cathedral on Geary Boulevard and Gough Street. Then everyone realized that they couldn't remember seeing the bell for the last month.

Police assume the bell was taken more recently, but can't be sure.

"Nobody can swear on a Bible and say the last time they saw the bell," said police Inspector Brian Danker.
Heavy equipment

The bell, which at 5,300 pounds and 5 feet across is bigger than the Liberty Bell, must have been lifted by a crane and carted away by more than an average truck, Danker said. No security cameras are pointed at the area.

In 1889, the bell was commissioned to hang in the original St. Mary's Cathedral at Van Ness Avenue and O'Farrell Street. A steam train hauled it across the country from a Baltimore bell foundry.

It hung in the church until 1962, when an arsonist destroyed the old cathedral. The bell was hoisted out of the crumbled tower and moved to a secluded corner of the cathedral's new grounds, near the corner of Gough Street and Geary Boulevard.

And there it sat on wooden blocks for 40 years as part of an exhibit on San Francisco history.

The bell is made of a mix of 80 percent copper and 20 percent tin, records show. If melted down, the bell is worth roughly $75,000. It originally cost the church $17,000, Wesolek said.

Danker said he intends to get the bell back. Anyone with information should call the police tip line at (415) 575-4444, he said.

"It is a priceless artifact," he said. "It belongs back with the parishioners."
Reward offered

The church is offering an unspecified reward for anyone who helps return the bell or catch the thieves. A security camera pointed at a nearby parking lot may have captured the truck as it left the cathedral, Wesolek said. thieves 2-ton church bell, Liberty Bell, Philadelphia, st. mary's cathedral 2-ton bell $500,000 stolen,

If the bell isn't recovered, Wesolek said he isn't sure the church can afford to replace it.

"There are so many needs that we have now that that wouldn't be too high on the priority list," he said. "And even if we did replace it, it wouldn't mean as much at all."