Burglars have ransacked two of Higham Ferrers' most historic buildings - St Mary's Church and the adjoining medieval Bede House.
The break-in was discovered yesterday morning (Wednesday, February 9) with 'significant' damage being caused to both external and internal doors.
Using keys stored in the Bede House the thieves then entered the church where they stole money in a large glass jar and trashed the prayer candles and organ altar.
Church administrator Ria Jefferies said: "The benefice of St Marys Church Higham Ferrers was saddened to discover the break in of all buildings this morning.
"It is disturbing to think something like this can happen to our beautiful church while we sleep at night. Thankfully we have a strong community who have rallied round to help today and get us operational again."
The break-in was discovered at 7.30am and it is thought that a crowbar, retrieved from a hedge in Midland Road by a church clean-up party, might have been used in the burglary.
A spokesman for St Mary's Church said: "We have since found a crowbar we believed used by the burglars wedged into the hedge at the back of the church premises leading on to Midland Road.
"Any premises at the back of the church with CCTV may have vital footage which the police are keen to obtain. Also a black 4x4 was spotted acting suspiciously around 2.15pm on Tuesday (February 8) around the church and market square parking, the police again would like more details of this vehicle."
The Bedehouse was founded by Archbishop Chichele in 1422 and built in the churchyard next to the vicarage.
Revd Michelle Dalliston, interim vicar, said "I’m so sad that this has happened causing distress and concern but everyone was absolutely brilliant at helping make things secure again.
"Our church is open every day to be a place of peace and sanctuary and the Bede House too offers a welcome to everyone. We want to do all we can to offer support and assistance for people at difficult times - when things like this happen its very disappointing but it won’t deter us at all because we are here for everyone."
A spokesman for Northants Police said: "Witnesses or anyone with info should contact us quoting incident number 220000794-59."