(NEW YORK) — An Arkansas prep school went into lockdown after a man entered the school’s church, destroyed its marble altar, and walked out with multiple 1,500-year-old relics, according to authorities.
The incident happened at the Subiaco Abbey Church in Arkansas, part of a Benedictine monastery and an all-male, college-prep school.
According to Subiaco Abbey and the Logan County Sheriff’s Office, Jerrid Farnam, 31, entered the building between 3 and 4 p.m. on Jan. 5. He used a regular hammer and sledgehammer to destroy a marble altar that housed two brass containers that each stored three sacred relics.
“The altar itself had a very large hole in the middle of the slab that went all of the way through the altar and the altar had large cracks and chips,” Sheriff’s office wrote in a statement. “This is an act of desecration to the altar.”
According to Subiaco Abbey, the man was interrupted after he removed the veil from the church’s tabernacle. In this vessel, Catholic churches store consecrated bread believed to be the body of Jesus Christ.
“The Sheriff reported that the man had wanted to break into the tabernacle but had looked up at the statue of Mary and decided he couldn’t do that to her,” Subiaco Abbey wrote in a Facebook post.
Farnam left the premises with two relic boxes he took from the altar, which contained six relics from saints that dated back to 500 A.D., according to the Sheriff’s office.
According to Subiaco Abbey, the school went into lockdown while the sheriff’s office investigated the incident. After law enforcement left the church, Farnam returned to the church and spoke with a monk. According to the sheriff’s office, officers returned to the church and arrested Farnam, who lives in the Subiaco area.
Subiaco Abbey noted that witnesses were “fairly confident” that Farnam had been seen previously in the church. According to their Facebook, Subiaco Abbey hosts public prayers five times daily.
After Farnam’s arrest, officers found a box containing the relics in his truck along with the dusty sledgehammer and hammer allegedly used to desecrate the altar, according to Subiaco Alley.
Farnam is currently detained at a local jail. The sheriff’s office said he faces charegs of theft, mischief, burglary, breaking and entering, and public intoxication, though the exact charges may change.
The Logan County Sheriff’s Office noted that the other missing relic box was later obtained and returned to Subiaco Abbey.
Meanwhile, Subiaco Monastery wrote that they would use a portable monastery until they could repair the shattered altar.
“Now that the gentleman has been caught and justice will proceed, may we also offer a prayer for him,” they wrote in their statement.
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