Metal thieves struck again over the weekend, this time lifting an historic church bell from the plaza in front of St. Mary's Cathedral on Geary Boulevard sometime in between Saturday night and the start of Sunday morning services. The 4-foot-high bell was previously salvaged from a fire that burned down the Old St. Mary's Cathedral roughly half a century ago, so it is something of a priceless artifact for the church.

Unfortunately, authorities believe it will end up in the hands of scrap metal dealers as the latest victim of a recent string of brass and bronze thefts in the Bay Area that include the plaque at Harvey Milk Plaza and a large bronze statue of a pelican in Novato.

There are some conflicting reports about how much the bell actually weighs: KTVU says 500 pounds, but the Examiner weighs in with a two ton figure. If does end up melted down for scrap, it will likely only fetch around $1 per pound with metal recyclers. (Which, if you ask us, hardly seems worth the effort.) Given it's historic status and it's provenance from Baltimore's McShane Bell Foundry it could be worth as much as several hundred thousand dollars intact, although we're not exactly sure whether there's a strong black market for stolen church bells. Still, SFPD and officials at the cathedral are hopeful they can get it back and eventually put it to use again. There is a "substantial reward" for its safe return.

SFist reached out to Saint Mary's to get an exact figure on the bell's weight, but we have yet to hear back on that. Update: Saint Mary's let us know that the official weight on the bell is 5,300 pounds.

Previously: Harvey Milk Plaque, Bolted in Cement, Stolen Over the Weekend