A CHRISTMAS church service had to be halted when a mass fight broke out.

Chairs were thrown as men punched each other in front of up to 400 shocked onlookers.

Father Vincent Harvey, the priest at St Edmund’s Church in The Avenue, Southampton, was forced to stop the midnight Mass service until the police arrived.

A steward received hand injuries when he tried to stop one man throwing a metal chair down an aisle.

The Mass was eventually able to continue after a 20 minute break because of the alcohol-fuelled fight.

Police arrested three men in or near the church on suspicion of public order offences.

The trio - all from Southampton and aged 24, 27 and 31 - were held overnight for questioning at Southampton Central police station but later released on bail, pending further investigations.

All three must report back to police on Friday.