STRATFORD-UPON-AVON, England - Adopt a gargoyle. Sponsor a spire.

It could help save the 800-year-old Holy Trinity Church, where William Shakespeare was baptized and lies buried with his wife, Anne Hathaway.

Church officials hope the Bard's fans around the world will help raise $6.3 million needed to repair a cracked spire, broken windows and eroding bricks - and address damage from death watch beetles and years of dry rot.

"It's absolutely desperate," said Josephine Walker of the Friends of Shakespeare's Church, which is in charge of fund-raising. "It's raining, and as we speak, rain is pouring in through the clerestory windows."

It's a common story in the parishes of England, where hundreds of medieval churches need much loving care. The Church of England estimates that $680 million worth of repairs are under way or urgently needed.

Catherine Penn, one of the trustees of the Friends, said urgent work had been done to repair the crumbling parapet, but donations from tourists have dropped for other repairs at the church in Stratford-upon-Avon, 120 miles northwest of London.

She urged supporters to "sponsor a gargoyle" to help the fund.

Shakespeare was baptized at Holy Trinity on April 26, 1564, and the church's burial register lists him as "Gulielimus, filius Johannes Shakspeare" (William, son of John Shakespeare).

After a career writing and staging his plays in London, Shakespeare retired to Stratford in 1611, and was buried in the chancel - an area near the altar - on April 25, 1616, two days after his death.

About 100,000 people visit Holy Trinity every year to view his resting place, with its inscription, "Will Shakspeare, Gent." The memorial was erected a few years after his death, and the plump-looking likeness on the gravestone is considered a good one.

"People say he looks like a well-fed pork butcher," church warden Bill Hicks said.

In case anyone might think of moving his remains, Shakespeare's gravestone offers a curse, written by the Bard himself:

Good frend, for Jesus sake, forbeare

To digg the dust encloased heare

Bleste be ye [the] man [who] spares thes stones

And curst be he [who] moves my bones.

Take a closer look at Shakespeare's church via http://go.philly.com/bard EndText