St. Mary's Cathedral of the Assumption in San Francisco, Cal.
Thieves have stolen a 2.5 ton bell from St. Mary's Cathedral (pictured) in San Francisco. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A San Francisco cathedral has been struck by theft; bandits made off with a century-old, 2.5 ton cathedral bell. Metal theft, or stealing metal objects and selling them for the value of scrap, is a rampant national problem.

No more bell at St. Mary’s

San Francisco’s St. Mary’s Cathedral of the Assumption reported on Monday, according to the Daily Mail, that thieves have absconded with the cathedral bell. Whatever the proceeds from the bell are, they will be hard earned.

The nation has been plagued by the rising incidence of metal theft, where thieves will make off with metal in order to sell it for scrap. Copper is prized for being easily obtained through wiring and plumbing and for having a high value, along with other materials.

Massive task

The bell, roughly the size of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, was cast in Maryland in 1889. St. Mary’s commissioned the bell for the price of $17,000 and had it shipped via train from Maryland, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The bell, which rang during the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires, had been placed on a concrete slab in 1962 after a fire destroyed the original St. Mary’s. The new cathedral replaced it with an electric chime, but kept the original bell for display purposes. The  bronze bell weighs 5,300 pounds and is made of of 80 percent copper, 20 percent tin. The bell is valued around $75,000.

Thieves going straight to bell

This isn’t the first time metal thieves have targeted church bells. According to San Francisco Weekly, the church bell of St. Michael’s Korean Church was stolen in 2010. It was significantly smaller than the bell of St. Mary’s; the 100-year-old bell was 4 feet by 4 feet and weighed 600 pounds.

According to 10News, a San Diego ABC affiliate, the bell from the Shephard of the Valley Lutheran Church in La Mesa was stolen in 2008. A woman was arrested when she tried to sell it for scrap at a recycling center several days later and workers alerted police.

In 2009, a 1,000-pound church bell installed in 1848 was stolen from the Second Baptist Church in New Orleans, according to NBC affiliate WSDU.

In 2010, the Shotwick Bell was stolen from St. Michael’s Church in Cheshire, England, according to the BBC. The still-missing bell weighs more than 300 pounds and was installed in 1664.

A 3,000 pound copper bell was stolen from a Tacoma, Wash., Buddhist temple in 2006, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It was returned when police arrested the holder of the bell.

High price of copper drives theft

A huge number of metal theft cases have emerged in recent years. Copper, according to the Daily Mail, fetched just 20 cents per pound in 2002. As of Oct. 26, according to Forbes, copper is $3.60 per pound.


Daily Mail:

San Francsico Chronicle:

San Francisco Weekly:




Seattle Post-Intelligencer


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