Monday August 30 9:08 AM ET

Bells Stolen From Cathedral

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Three priceless bells donated by Russian Czar Alexander III to the Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral in San Francisco were apparently stolen over the weekend, police said.

``These bells have survived the great earthquake and fire of 1906,'' the cathedral's rector, the Rev. Victor Sokolov, told KCBS radio. ``They are unique bells.''

The bells are part of a set of seven that were donated to the fledgling mission of the American Russian Church in 1888. Cast in Moscow, they are adorned with decorative scrollwork and are believed to be unique in the United States, and rare even in Russia where many bells were destroyed during the Second World War, church officials said.

Police were looking into the apparent theft, which occurred as the cathedral undergoes major renovation following a fire in 1998.

Holy Trinity, the oldest Orthodox Cathedral community in the contiguous United States, is the seat of Bishop Tikhon of San Francisco and the Diocese of the West, Orthodox Church in America.