Church's stolen Stations of the Cross paintings are part of €500,000 set
SIX pieces of artwork stolen from a church were part of a set worth half a million euro.
Gardai are seeking a gang who stole six of the 14 Stations of the Cross at Kiltullagh parish in Co Galway. The works, by famous Irish artist Evie Hone, were taken on Saturday night.
A garda forensics team carried out an examination of the scene yesterday but it is understood the thieves left few traces.
Parish priest Fr Martin McNamara discovered the break-in at 9.15pm on Saturday. He told the Irish Independent that he had feared the church was being targeted after a key was stolen from the back door a week before.
Fr McNamara secured the door and used a dummy key in the lock to ensure thieves could not gain entry from outside.
"They obviously sussed that out, because they waited until they could get in the front door – but used the stolen key to go out the back door, " he said.
Fr McNamara described the paintings as "priceless".
"We would be talking about half a million euro for the set, maybe more," he said.
Evie Hone was a Dublin-born painter and stained-glass artist. Her most important works are the East Window for the Chapel at Eton College in Windsor and 'My Four Green Fields', which is now at Government Buildings.
She painted the 14 Stations of the Cross for Kiltullagh church in 1945 after being commissioned by a local benefactor.
Meanwhile, religious art dealer Stephen Bird Flanagan said he believed the theft was "opportunistic. A set of stations is of no use without the entire set. It would seem that they didn't know what they were doing."
Mr Flanagan, who runs the Crypt religious items store in Dublin, said that while some collectors may be interested in the pieces, they would never consider buying just six stations as they were only valuable as a complete set.