One of Lancashire’s most senior clergymen was beaten with a church candle while welcoming visitors to a cathedral.
Mark Pickering, 36, needed hospital treatment after suffering head injuries, two broken ribs and a fractured elbow in the unprovoked attack.
He was standing by the nave at Blackburn Cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of Lancashire, and making conversation when he was punched in the face and fell to the floor.
The male attacker then stamped on his head and viciously beat him with a church candle before being fleeing.
Very Rev Christopher Armstrong, Dean of the Cathedral, said: “It is a huge shock to us all. This sort of level of attack happens very rarely, but it is the worst I have known for 14 years.”
Mr Pickering, head verger at the Cathedral, was taken to the Royal Blackburn Hospital, where he underwent surgery on his arm on Tuesday.
The Dean said Mr Pickering, who is married with a young family, had been carrying out his duties as the Cathedral’s verger, which include welcoming people into the cathedral, when he was attacked at around 2pm on Monday.
He said: “Our vergers are very skilled at making people feel welcome.
“The cathedral is open during extended officer hours and this was a member of the public who made an unprovoked attack.
“Mr Pickering is very experienced. He is the Dean’s verger and he is head of the department.
“He is the most placid and caring person you can imagine.
“He is one of the stars of the cathedral staff and he is widely acknowledged as a brilliant carer and reconciliator, not only by the cathedral staff, but also members of the public who deal with him.”
The Dean said he hopes Mr Pickering - described as the ‘star’ of the cathedral - would have a speedy recovery.
He said: “It is not only justice he needs, but care. He is not very well and is having some surgery.”
The Bishop of Blackburn, The Rt Revd Julian Henderson, said: “I have contacted the Dean today and Mark is in all of our prayers as he recovers from his injuries.”
A spokeswoman for Lancashire Police said an investigation was underway and that a 24-year-old man was being questioned by officers.
She appealed for anybody with information about the attack to come forward.
A 24-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of assault and sectioned after assessment by the mental health team.
Anybody with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.