Byline: Liam Murphy
FOR more than 100 years it has been a symbol of pride for the parishioners of St Peter's church in Heswall.
Now an intricate 16th century painting of Christ by Flemish master Quentin Metsys is to be sold in a bid to raise funds for a new community centre.
Other works by the artist hang in the National Gallery in London, Paris's Louvre and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The St Peter's painting depicts a robed Christ with one raised hand and the other clutching an ornate crucifix and has been valued at pounds 40,000.
It was donated to the church by former parishioner Thomas Brocklebank in memory of his wife Mary in 1893.
But several years ago it was loaned to Liverpool's Walker Art Gallery, where it currently hangs, and a copy was hung to replace it.
Now the original, much cherished by Heswall villagers, is to be sold to the Grosvenor Museum in Chester, where it will take pride of place in the collection.
The parish is also selling off buildings near the front of the church currently used as parish offices and known as the reading rooms. But, despite this, the Rev Dr Jonathan Gibbs, rector of St Peter's, said the congregation would still fall short of their target.
Parishioners will still be able to enjoy the painting, as the copy will remain on view below the church's main stained glass window.
The church has ambitious plans to build a new community centre with offices and extra space to host community events and meetings. …