The Virgin on the Rocks
The Virgin Mary is a central artistic figure in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox Christianity Reuters

A court in France has ordered a town to remove its statue of the Virgin Mary to comply with a national ban on religious symbols in public.

The mayor of Publier, which lies near France's eastern border with Switzerland, said he would attempt to relocate the statue to private land.

The marble statue was installed in a public park overlooking Lake Geneva in 2011.

It was eventually sold to a religious association, but the land it stands on is public property and it is in breach of French laws on displays of religious symbols, according to the AFP news agency.

Publier mayor Gaston Lacroix said the town would be fined €100 (£84) a day if it fails to remove the statue within the next three months.

Separation of church and state is a core concept in the French constitution.

In 2010, France became the first European country to ban the burka, the full-face Islamic veil, as well as the partial face covering known as the niqab.

In August several French Riviera towns imposed controversial bans on women's Islamic full-body swimsuits, but they were later overturned by the country's top administrative court.

A law banning headscarves and other religious symbols from French state schools came into effect in 2004.