The marble altar of an Arkansas Benedictine monastery was desecrated by a man wielding a sledgehammer. The man also stole several relics of ancient saints during the church attack.
Around 3 p.m. on Thursday, a man entered the Subiaco Abbey church in Subiaco, Arkansas. The man was wielding a regular hammer and sledgehammer/ax. The man battered a marble altar that was imported from Italy with the sledgehammer. The man bashed a hole through the marble that is several inches thick.
The church said in a statement, “Through the use of a regular hammer and sledgehammer/axe, he destroyed the top of the altar and broke open the mensa stones containing the relics of our altar. He stole our two reliquaries in the mensa stones, both of which contained three relics.”
The suspect stole two reliquaries that were gold-colored boxes each containing three relics of saints from over 1,500 years ago. The relics were from the Martyr Saints Boniface and Tiberius, as well as St. Benedict. The second reliquary was later recovered by the Logan County Sheriff’s Office and returned to the church.
A sheriff’s deputy arrived at the crime scene and then left.
However, the suspect returned to the Subiaco Abbey church later that day. Deputies returned and arrested Jerrid Farnam.
Police said they searched Farnam’s vehicle at the church and found the sledgehammer and hammer coated with marble dust. Law enforcement also found one of the reliquary boxes in Farnam’s pickup truck. However, the second reliquary reportedly was not recovered.
Farnam was arrested and taken to the Logan County jail. The 31-year-old is expected to be charged with theft of property, criminal mischief in the first degree, residential burglary, breaking or entering, and public intoxication. The charges could change because it is difficult to estimate the costs of the precious artifacts.
The church said, “Due to the desecration of the altar, Abbot Elijah and the monastic community will undertake the ‘Public Prayer after the Desecration of a Church.’ In accordance with the prescriptions, the altar of the church has been stripped bare and all customary signs of joy and gladness have been put away. Due to the extensive damage to the main altar, the monks will use a portable altar until necessary provisions are made for the repairs.”
The church said that the monks would “offer a prayer” for the suspect.
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