An investigation is being carried out after six Evie Hone paintings were stolen from a church in Co Galway.

The works form part of the 14 stations of the cross at the Church of St Peter and Paul at Kiltullagh, near Athenry.

Parish Priest Fr Martin McNamara noticed the paintings were missing when he went to lock up the church.

Each of the oil paintings is about three feet by four feet and held in a wooden frame.

Three paintings were taken from each of the side aisles of the church.

Fr McNamara said the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 10th, 11th and 12th stations had been removed.

The works have been hanging in Kiltullagh Church since 1945 after they were commissioned by a local benefactor.

Artist Evie Hone worked primarily through the medium of stained glass, so her paintings are quite rare. Preliminary sketches for the Stations in Kiltullagh fetched over €40,000 at auction last year.

Local TD and Minister of State Ciaran Cannon said parishioners were devastated by the theft.

He has appealed to the thieves to return the paintings, saying they will be almost impossible to dispose of on the open market.

The remaining eight paintings have been removed from the church as a precautionary measure.