UPDATE: The bell has been recovered. Read more.
Thieves -- apparently interested in its copper content -- hauled away a 5300-pound historic church bell from St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco early Sunday morning October 23, the archdiocese said in a statement to the press.
The bell, 63 inches in diameter, had been mounted on a concrete slab in the garden area at the corner of the cathedral’s front parking lot, according to the archdiocesan statement. The bell had an estimated value of $75,000. It was reported missing around 11 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 23.
Police told the press they believed the thieves were professionals hoping to salvage the bell for its copper content, estimated to have a value of around $12,000.
“The current scrap value of copper is approximately $2.00 - $2.50 per pound,” said the statement from the archdiocese. “The genuine bell metal component of the stolen item is 80% copper, 20% tin.”
“The theft of this historic bell from St. Mary’s Cathedral is just the latest in a rash of alarming metal thefts across the city,” the San Francisco Examiner reported. “The Police Department recently launched a special investigations unit specifically to combat such thefts.”
“In another heist last weekend, crooks cut several thousand dollars worth of copper from a building owned by Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, San Francisco police Inspector Brian Danker said,” reported the Examiner. “Sacred Heart recently acquired the building to house a nonprofit organization, he added.”
“The bell had been relocated from the previous cathedral on Van Ness Street,” said the archdiocesan statement. “It was ordered by Duriham Carrigan as a gift for St. Mary’s Cathedral in August 1889, and shipped directly from the McShane Bell Foundry of Baltimore, Maryland.” The cathedral on Van Ness Street was destroyed by fire in 1963.
“We cannot replace this historic and valuable item,” said George Wesolek, Director of Communications and Public Policy for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. “Hopefully, the police will recover it, and we can put it back in its rightful place as a memory of the Catholic Church of San Francisco.”
“San Francisco Police Inspector Brian Danker said he is canvassing the neighborhood, asking neighbors if they say any unusual activity around the cathedral property,” reported the archdiocesan newspaper Catholic San Francisco. “He said a hydraulic lift could move the bell.”
Danker told Catholic San Francisco that copper thefts are plaguing the Bay Area. “The worst nightmare going for a contractor in San Francisco or the Bay Area is to make the mistake of going on a three-day weekend,” he said. “You come back to your job site and see copper has been ripped out of your building.”
The archdiocese, said Catholic San Francisco, is offering an unspecified reward in the case.