Thieves Steal Village Church Brick by Brick

A church has vanished from a village in the Ivanovo region where it stood for almost 200 years, the local diocese said Tuesday.

The Church of Christ's Resurrection in the village of Komarovo was built in 1809, but in early October someone took it away brick by brick, said Father Vitaly, a spokesman for the local Russian Orthodox Church.

"We have sent a letter to local prosecutors," he said. "Who exactly did this, the investigation will show."

The church was in an isolated area only occasionally visited by clergymen, so the disappearance was not immediately noticed. The church was not in use, but clergy had been considering resuming services there, the Ivanovo-Voznesenskaya and Kineshemskaya diocese said in a statement.

A survey of the large, two-story church a few months ago found that it was structurally sound, but now all that remains are the foundations and sections of walls, the statement said.

Thieves routinely make off with church property in rural areas, where unemployment, petty crime and alcoholism are widespread.

Criminals target religious icons stored in churches because they can fetch a good price, and church buildings are dismantled to provide building materials.

"This is not an isolated case," Father Vitaly said. "In many villages in central Russia, sites of historical interest are being dismantled, and people suffer by being deprived of their cultural heritage."