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Abbey told it must keep 16th century painting

Fri 09 Jan 2015
By Aaron James

A Church of England judge has ruled an abbey in Northumberland cannot sell a 400-year-old painting of Jesus coming down from the cross, because it would "diminish the nation's heritage".

Hexham Abbey was given the painting, called 'The Descent of Christ from the Cross', in 1947 by Flemish painter Pieter Coecke van Aelst.

It's one of three paintings that make a set, with the other two being located in San Francisco, America.

Because of security concerns and insurance costs, Hexham Abbey lent the painting to an art gallery in Gateshead in 1989.

However in 2011 the gallery said it no longer wanted the painting, and gave it back to the abbey. At this point they decided to apply to sell it abroad.

The painting's estimated to be worth £150,000.

The Church of England denied the application to sell it, but said opportunities to loan it to another gallery or museum in the UK would be "fully and properly explored."

Chris Wilson, a churchwarden at Hexham Abbey, said: "It's not straightforward to know what the best thing is to do.

"We are going to be working hard with the dioceses to find some sensible way forward.

"At the minute we are in the situation where there is no obvious suitable place to put the painting."

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