The Diocese of Salford, UK has reiterated its commitment to preserving and protecting a historic Catholic mural in a church, following increasing concerns about its survival due to the threat of vandalism.
The artwork was created in 1955 by George Mayer-Marton, a Hungarian Jew who sought refuge in the UK following the spread of Nazism and has been granted Grade II listed status by the UK Government.
The celebrated piece depicts the Crucifixion of Christ and resides in the Church of the Holy Rosary in Oldham, a large town in Greater Manchester, England.
The church was closed in 2017, "leaving the mural vulnerable to decay and vandalism", the Catholic Church in England and Wales noted in August 2022.
Local councilors have written a public letter expressing their worries that the historic piece is under threat due to anti-social behavior and they have called on the local council and Salford Diocese to move the mural to the local gallery in the area, known as Gallery Oldham.
According to a report by Quest Media Network, councillors Dan Costello, Luke Lancaster and Max Woodvine wrote in their letter: “We write as three Catholic Councillors sitting on Oldham and Tameside Councils to express our increasing concern surrounding the future of the mural currently housed in Holy Rosary Church, in the Medlock Vale Ward of Oldham, which is threatened by vandalism.
"This socially and historically important mural has now been Grade II Listed… Historic England have highlighted the importance of this mural and asked that steps are taken to ensure its survival urgently. Therefore, I ask you to cooperate in protecting and preserving this important and unique piece of our heritage."
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Salford told Catholic News Agency: “We thank the councillors for their interest in the mural and we look forward to meeting with them and council leaders soon to discuss their proposal further.
“We remain committed to preserving this important piece of work and are actively work with all interested parties to find the best option to respect the mosaic and preserve its heritage for future generations to enjoy.
“Despite the security measures put in place to secure the building we have in recent weeks been subject to some anti-social behaviour and a small amount of damage has taken place. Additional security measures are now in place and are being reviewed daily.”
George Mayer-Marton was an artist of note on the Vienesse art scene during the 1930s but was forced to flee to the UK following the annexation of Austria in 1938.
‘The Crucifixion’ was commissioned by the Catholic church in 1955. There are three ecclesiastical murals by the artist, at Oldham, Liverpool and Blackley. Only Oldham and Blackley are in their original location. The Pentecost mosaic was moved to Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral in 1989 when the church it was housed in faced demolition.
Historic England’s recent recommendation to award the Oldham mural special status marks a significant step in solidifying its recognition.
Their report on the mural stated: “The mural is highly unusual and possibly unique in this country in its striking aesthetic combination of neo-baroque mosaic and modernist Cubist-influenced fresco inventively applied to traditional Christian iconography in a deeply personal evocation of suffering and redemption.”
Update 9/2: A previous version of this article incorrectly said that the Oldham mural was one of only two surviving ecclesiastical murals created by Mayer-Marton. The story has been updated to say that there are three.
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