In a country with an average monthly wage of less than £350, it should have been little surprise that there were few takers in an auction for a gold Rolex – particularly when the asking price was over £5,000.

Nikolay, the Metropolitan of Plovdiv

Nikolay, the Metropolitan of Plovdiv Photo: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

By Jeevan Vasagar in Berlin

6:16AM GMT 11 Mar 2013

A senior cleric in the Bulgarian orthodox church, who offered up the luxury watch to pay a church electricity bill, failed to attract any bidders on Sunday.

Nikolay, the Metropolitan of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second largest city, decided to sell the watch last month to pay an electricity bill of over £1,300 at the Saint Marina church. Any money left over from the auction when the utility bill was paid was due to be donated to charity.

“I’d rather go to heaven without a watch than to hell with one,” the cleric told the state news agency.

The orthodox church is the second biggest landowner in Bulgaria after the state and has faced criticism over its wealth.

Kiril, the interim patriarch of the church – at the time, its most senior member – recently appeared in front of worshippers in a Lincoln MKZ hybrid limousine, reaching from inside the luxury car to sprinkle believers with holy water, according to Bulgarian press reports.