Church Treasures

Protecting Church Treasures

Church buildings contain a wide range of objects, many of them unique portable artworks of great significance. Such treasures belong in churches and should only be removed in the most exceptional circumstances.

The past for church buildings is also their future – they tell the ongoing story of the church and of those who have worshipped there and cared for it, often for centuries, as a living witness to the glory of God in every corner of the land.

We understand that during difficult economic times, the sale of objects and works of art can be tempting, particularly if they appear to have no practical use. However, if such sales are given validity through success in even one or two instances, the parish churches of England could quickly be stripped of many of the treasures that make them unique. Later generations would surely regret such losses, in much the same way as we now regret the destruction of countless medieval sculptures during the Reformation or the shattering of tens of thousands of stained-glass windows during the Commonwealth. But by then it would be too late.

The Church Buildings Council has produced some documents to help parishes address concerns, offering guidance and practical support on protecting treasures; this includes a detailed explanation of the policy regarding the sale/disposal of items.


General information can be found in the section Furnishings no longer needed for worship which includes a guide to Disposals and Loans.

Advice on how to protect your church’s treasures can be found in the section Crime and Security Prevention.

Display Cases:

The Society for Museum Archaeology has also published some fact sheets on the care of key materials which can be downloaded via the links below.  The full document on the Standards and Guidance in the Care of Archaeological Collections is available on request from the Church Buildings Team at the Diocese of Ely.

SMA Factsheet – Glass

SMA Factsheet – Stone

SMA Factsheet – Leather

SMA Factsheet – Composite Objects

SMA Factsheet – Metals non-ferrous

Valuable or particularly vulnerable items should generally be cleaned by conservation specialists.  For guidance on the cleaning of church buildings, including objects, fixtures and fittings please see the Church Cleaning section on the Diocese of Ely’s website. 


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Page last updated: 12th May 2021 6:05 PM
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Ely Diocesan Board of Finance is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales with company number 142183, and a charity registered in England and Wales with Charity Number 245456. The registered address is: Diocesan Office, Bishop Woodford House, Barton Road, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4DX. All rights reserved.