A portrait of The Last Supper which depicts Jesus as a black man has been shot with an air-rifle while hanging on the wall of a Nailsworth church.

The iconic painting which shows Christ and his 12 disciples during his last days before he was betrayed by Judas had been reimagined by artist Lorna May Wadsworth.

In her version, Christ was portrayed as black man - and the painting was on display at St Geroge's Church.

But when she went to inspect the painting, ahead of moving it to an exhibition in Sheffield, she noticed a tiny pellet hole in the canvas.

Lorna said she "never dreamed" anyone would react "so violently" to her painting.

She added that images of the damage were shown to a ballistics expert who told her it was caused by an air rifle.

Lorna, 39, said that she created the reimagined Last Supper and gifted the painting to the church.

She said that measures were put in place so that the painting could never be sold, despite its value, and would not pass into private ownership.

She said that she wanted to give something back to the community and so was devastated when the painting was targeted by vandals.

Lorna, from Sheffield, Yorkshire, said: "I couldn't begin to speculate why someone has done this.

"I can't get into the mind set of someone who would go into a church and shoot some thing.

"I would prefer it it was random vandalism, it's too horrible to contemplate the alternative."

Lorna said she only noticed the damage when she was unpacking the artwork in preparation for an exhibition in Sheffield.

She added: "When I unwrapped the piece it had a hole in it, to begin with I thought it had been damaged in transit.

"In the church, it's hung on the inside of an exterior wall - so it had to be painted on a sheet of aluminium.

"If it was painted on wood it would warp due to the elements, if it was on canvas you would see the joins - so it had to be metal.

"But because of this there's a huge dent around the impact, there's a lot of the painting that is no longer attached to the aluminium.

"It can never be fully repaired, it can only be straightened.

"When I realised what had happened I was completely disconsolate, I was so upset - it felt like a personal attack."

The pellet hole was found on Jesus' side - at the same point where he was stabbed by a Roman soldier while on the cross to make sure he was dead.

Reverend Caroline Bland, the vicar of St George's, said she didn't know how the damaged was caused.

Church treasurer Miles Robinson said: "I've looked at the picture over a number of years and it's not a smooth surface, so from the oil side you don't obviously see it."

Lorna's painting is due to be shown in an exhibition at Graves Gallery in Sheffield, starting on Saturday.

The church may now have to look into security measures to prevent a repeat incident.