The gold tabernacle at St. Augustine Roman Catholic church in Park Slope (left) and its protective metal case (right), which was sawed into by thieves (image courtesy New York Police Department)

On Saturday, May 28, Father Frank Tumino opened the doors of the St. Augustine Roman Catholic Church in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood and found a missing tabernacle, a decapitated statue of an angel, another statue destroyed, and the eucharist thrown over the altar.

St. Augustine’s gold tabernacle is valued by the New York Police Department (NYPD) at $2 million. In 1888, when construction on the Gothic Revival church began, parishioners donated their own jewelry to adorn the tabernacle, according to a video produced by the Catholic Church in 2013. For over a century, the tabernacle has housed the eucharist, the offering given during communion each mass.

One of the damaged statues (image courtesy DeSales Media Group)

A video taken before the robbery shows the tabernacle up close and its position behind the altar.

“This is devastating, as the tabernacle is the central focus of our church outside of worship, holding the Body of Christ, the Eucharist,” Tumino said in a statement.

The theft occurred sometime between 6:30pm on Thursday, May 25, and 4pm, according to the NYPD. The church thinks it took place on Friday.

St. Augustine had security cameras, which the NYPD said were not working, but Tumino said the DVR recording of the footage was stolen as well. The church was under construction at the time of theft.

The thief or thieves reportedly bypassed the tabernacle’s own electronic security system and sawed through its one-inch-thick metal case.

“To know that a burglar entered the most sacred space of our beautiful Church and took great pains to cut into a security system is a heinous act of disrespect,” Tumino said.

The exterior of St. Augustine’s, designed by the Parfitt brothers (via Wikimedia Commons)

A safe was sawed into as well, but there was nothing inside to take.

Designed by the Parfitt brothers, the architects behind much of Park Slope’s characteristic brownstone landscape, St. Augustine was completed in 1892. The interior of the church — featuring stretching arches and stained glass windows — took over 30 years to finish.

The interior of the church (photo by Adam Fagen via Flickr)

An NYPD spokesperson told Hyperallergic that the investigation was ongoing as of June 3. The incident was not being investigated as a hate crime.

“For somebody to come in and desecrate our church is a horror,” Maryann Taranto, a Brooklyn local and one of the church’s parishioners, told the New York Times. She added that she was praying for the tabernacle’s return.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.