A six foot statue of a Celtic sea god, Manannán Mac Lir, was stolen from the Binevenagh Mountain near Limavady in County Derry and replaced with a crucifix.
The thieves left a wooden cross in the statue’s place with the words, “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Manannán Mac Lir is a sea deity in Irish mythology and is said to have been the first ruler of the Isle of Man.
Manand is the old Irish name for the Isle of Man. His surname suggests he was the son of Lir, meaning the sea. The presence of a sea god in Lough Foyle folklore is strong and the widespread practice of making offerings to deities in Celtic times is also noted.
Mystery surrounds the statue’s disappearance as it was made of stainless steel and fiberglass and according to its sculptor it would have taken a number of men with angle grinders hours to remove the figure from its base. The statue was worth $15,000.
The statue’s sculptor John Sutton, who creates sets for the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” said he was shocked to hear the news.
He told the BBC, "I'm very disturbed by this…It's unreal.
"Some statues are stolen for their bronze. But this was cut down at the base and the materials would not have been worth stealing.
"I made it out of clay first and then a silicone mold, before I cast it. It took me months and months to make and five or six men to carry it up there and install it.
"It was very heavy and would have taken a long time to remove."
Police are investigating the theft and have released photos of the statue along with an appeal for information.
The statue overlooked Benone Beach, Magilligan, in Limavady and was part of the area’s sculpture trail.
"I was very proud of this. It was very popular with photographers," he said.
People in the area believe that the spirit of the sea god, Manannán Mac Lir, is released at the Gortmore Viewing Point during fierce storms. Elderly locals still remark “Manannán is angry today," when the River Foyle is rough and refer to the angry waves as "Manannán's seahorses."