Campaign to bring historic Henry VIII tapestry to Bishop Auckland faith museum

A campaign has been launched to make a historic tapestry the centrepiece of a new faith museum opening in Bishop Auckland.

The Burning of the Heathen Books captures the moment Henry VIII broke from Rome declaring himself as head of the Church of England.

It was commissioned by the infamous English monarch around 1535 and was among the most expensive works of art of his reign.

For over 200 years it was thought to be lost but in 2014 it was rediscovered in Spain.

The Burning of the Heathen Books was one of the most expensive works of art commissioned during the reign of King Henry VIII. Credit: S Franses Gallery, London

The Spanish government imposed an export ban on the work, stating it could only return to Britain if purchased by a suitable institution for a price of around £3.55m. A further £1 million is needed for export taxes and other costs.

A campaign to bring the tapestry back to Britain in the Faith Museum in Bishop Auckland is gathering pace with over £350,000 already being crowdfunded.

Jonathan Ruffer, founder of the Auckland Project, said: "This tapestry needs to come back to England. It needs to be in an appropriate place and Auckland is that appropriate place.

"To come into a building as high status as this and find an object that can match its own authority is astonishing. I can't think of a single item anywhere in the treasure houses of England than the one we want here."

The tapestry is worth £3.55m Credit: S Franses Gallery, London

The campaign has the support of a number of prominent faces of the Church of England including Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham.

"It would be a wonderful centrepiece for the new museum and draw more people to come to all that's now available in Bishop Auckland," he said.

The Faith Museum, which will be located within the walls of Auckland Castle, will tell the story of 6,000 years of faith in Britain through permanent collections and artefacts loaned from other museums across the country.

It is due to open to the public in October.

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