Landmark statue of Christ on Belfast's Falls Road removed after damage
IT is has been a landmark sight for generations of families on the Falls Road in west Belfast.
But on Wednesday residents woke to find that a statue of the crucified Christ outside St Paul's Catholic Church was no longer on its 20-foot cross.
The Passion of Christ is an instantly recognisable feature of the Falls, standing beneath trees opposite the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Clerics and parishioners acted quickly to move the statue and used a trolley to take it from the scene.
It remained unclear on Wednesday night how long it would take for it to be re-instated in the grounds of the church again.
Parishioners attending Mass at St Paul's on Wednesday were shocked at the news.
One woman said: "Our Lord is on the ground, I hadn't even realised. I hope it's not long before he is returned."
St Paul's Church, which was built as a chapel of ease to nearby St Peter's, celebrated its first Mass in July 1887.
Historical documents reveal how a German airman reported the view of the statue as he flew over the city during the Belfast Blitz in World War II.
It is understood he saw the crucifixion scene lit up as bombs rained down on the city.
Historian Tom Hartley said it is a significant landmark in the west of the city.
"The crucifixion statue has been there for as long as I can remember," he said.
"It is an important part of the fabric of the Falls Road, thousands of people pass by it every day.
"At Lent, it is draped in a purple cloth, which draws people to it.
"It is one of those landmarks that people instantly recognise."