Stolen Soulard church bell found and returned to historic parish

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ST. LOUIS – A church bell stolen on Halloween night was discovered on November 15 and returned to its rightful owner, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, in the historic Soulard neighborhood.

While the investigation is ongoing, Father Bruce Forman, the parish rector, stated that there is limited information available regarding how the bell was found. Police are actively working to apprehend those responsible, and detailed information about the recovery process is not yet accessible.

According to Forman, the incident occurred the night before Halloween when vandals knocked the bell off its stand. Initially, he thought the individuals were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Forman expressed surprise when the thieves returned late on Halloween night to steal the bell.

They placed it on a cart, took it out of the front gate, and loaded it onto a trailer behind a truck. The parish’s security camera captures images but not video.

Forman immediately contacted the St. Louis police and used social media to alert the community about the theft. He also reached out to the Verdin Bell Company in Cincinnati, responsible for maintaining the steeple bells, to assess the cost for insurance purposes.

The bronze bell’s estimated value was nearly $30,000, and considering the damage to the supporting structure, the total replacement cost was estimated at $60,000.

Photo by Father Bruce Forman, the parish rectorPhoto by Father Bruce Forman, the parish rectorPhoto by Father Bruce Forman, the parish rectorPhoto by Father Bruce Forman, the parish rectorPhoto by Father Bruce Forman, the parish rector

Detective Craig Sayer led the investigation, recognizing the bell’s significance to the church.

“It was a symbol of our history and service in Soulard dating back to 1949. Originally opened to serve an immigrant German community, we now host 60 homeless men in the basement and provide 28,000 meals annually through our Meals Program in the parish hall,” explained Forman. “We prayed for the bell’s return.”

Forman shared the bell’s history, noting that it first rang in the original Sts. Peter and Paul Parish church in 1849. The present church, dedicated in 1875, houses five bells, each the size of Big Ben in London. The stolen bell, a bronze artifact weighing between 500 and 800 pounds, had been displayed in the rectory’s front yard for decades, attracting the attention of passersby who often stopped to take photos.


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