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Caravaggio: The Gorey Connection

Updated: Apr 28, 2021


I live in Gorey next to Christchurch and there is a lovely Harry Clarke stained glass window to the left of the entrance door commissioned by Marie Lea- Wilson, the subject being St Stephen and it was dedicated in 1922, in remembrance of her husband Captain Percival Lea Wilson. This is one of two windows in the church dedicated to him. He had been involved in the 1916 rising and mistreated prisoners who were held in the Rotunda hospital after they had surrendered in the GPO. His mistreatment of Tom Clarke was noted by some prisoners who swore revenge. After the troubles he was posted to France but by the end of 1917 he was back in Ireland and was posted to Gorey. He was not popular here because he carried out too many raids looking for arms. On June 15th 1920 he was walking home from the RIC barracks in Gorey and went to Easons in the railway station to buy his paper, but as he was heading back home at Westmount on the Ballycanew Road he was shot dead. The RIC were unaware that Michael Collins had given the order to have him killed. His wife Marie decided to stay on in Gorey and commissioned the stained glass window. Later she made a trip to Edinburgh and while browsing bought a painting called ‘The Betrayal of Christ’, for 12 guineas in 1922. Marie went on to study medicine and she had the painting hanging in her room.

One day in 1934 she decided to have a clear out of her house and gave the painting to the Jesuits. They hung it in their dining room until 1993, when they asked the National Gallery to examine it and there was the missing Caravaggio ‘The Taking of Christ’, worth €50,000,000 . The Jesuits have given it to the state on indefinite loan. Marie died in 1971 in 19 Fitzwilliam Place and is buried in Deansgrange cemetery in Dublin. Percival lea Wilson is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery in London with the inscription on his grave saying he was assassinated in Gorey in June 1920




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