Callous thieves risked their lives to climb a Burnley church spire and steal a cross from the top.
The brazen theft took place at All Saints with St John the Baptist, Habergham, Church in Padiham Road, which has been covered in scaffolding and tarpaulin for several months while repair work is ongoing.
Upset church members had only put the cross back at the top of the spire on Thursday afternoon, as repair work to the roof is nearly complete, but discovered the following morning that it had been stolen.
Choir member Sandria Burkinshaw said: "It is unbelieveable that someone or a group of people have risked their lives to steal this cross, which actually is very little in monetary terms.
"It is made of cast iron and so would not fetch much as scrap metal. However, to us it means much more than money. The church is around 150 years old and the cross has always been there so it is of historic value.
"It would have been quite heavy so we suspect there would have been more than one person who climbed the scaffolding to bring it down."
The Grade II listed building has been undergoing significant repairs to its roof since May, thanks to a National Churches Trust Cornerstone grant which has helped make the church watertight and preserve its historic internal fabric.
The Rev. Charlie Hill, vicar at the church, said: "Who would steal a cross from the top of a church? Normally the kind of person that wants a cross knows that stealing from anyone is bad, and from the house of God is particularly unscrupulous.
"Many people think that the church has lots of money, but this is not the case! We run our services and maintain our building through the generosity of those who donate to us. With the help of charities like the National Lottery we were able to undertake vital repairs to our leaking spire.
"After a great fund-raising effort we have come a long way. As part of this project we had the cross that adorns the top of our church sent away for repairs. People have said that our church looks like a wedding cake, but putting the cross back up there was the icing on the cake for us.
"We are worried that this will delay our project and may end up costing us lots of extra money. If we have to leave the scaffolding in place for longer than planned, costs could really mount up. If anyone knows anything about this theft or has seen our cross please do the right thing and help us by letting the police know."