A series of photographs which were due to be exhibited at Rome’s Galleria L’Opera have been taken down after a legal threat by the Vatican.

All but one of the 16 images by celebrated photographer Gonzalo Orquín were taken in churches in Rome, with gay and straight volunteers posing.

The Vicariate, which works with the Pope, confirmed it had sent the letter threatening legal action and said the photographs ‘could harm the religious sentiment of the faithful.’

Speaking to English language online news outlet The Local, Vicariate spokesman Claudio Tanturri said the photographs are in breach the Italian constitution, commenting: ‘Italian constitutional law safeguards an individual’s religious feeling and the function of places of worship.

‘Therefore photos that are not suitable and do not conform to the spirituality of the place offend and infringe upon the advancement of man in the particular place for the expression of faith.’

Flavio Romani, president of LGBT rights organisation Arcigay, described the Catholic Church’s reaction as ‘grotesque’, with Orquín, who is Spanish and has lived in Rome for eight years, adding that the has found Italy to be ‘a very homophobic country.’

‘There are no other countries in Europe or the west that are backward like this,’ he said.