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UK church mural by Jewish artist who fled Nazis to be preserved

Hungarian Jew George Mayer-Marton completed ‘The Crucifixion’ in 1955, years after escaping Austria and moving to the UK; decision to preserve it comes after years of uncertainty

An undated picture of "The Crucifixion," a mural made by Hungarian artist George Mayer-Marton, at the former Holy Rosary church in the town of Oldham, Britain. (G MAYER-MARTON ESTATE)
An undated picture of "The Crucifixion," a mural made by Hungarian artist George Mayer-Marton, at the former Holy Rosary church in the town of Oldham, Britain. (G MAYER-MARTON ESTATE)

A mural created in 1955 for a Catholic church by a Jewish refugee who had escaped the Nazi regime years earlier was recently saved from destruction after the UK government designated the church that it’s in as a building “of special interest,” The Guardian reported.

Hungarian Jew George Mayer-Marton was a prominent artist in the Viennese art world, before he departed Austria after its annexation by Nazi Germany in 1938, known as the Anschluss.

Mayer-Marton relocated to St John’s Wood in north London, where he tried to continue his art while teaching at the Liverpool College of Art after the war. He also offered his services to Catholic churches, which hired him to create large murals.

Thus, “The Crucifixion” was created — a near 8-meter-(26-foot)-tall mural made of stone and glass tesserae depicting Jesus on the cross for the Holy Rosary church in the town of Oldham just outside Manchester.

It was described as a “dazzling beauty” by Tristram Hunt, director of the world-renowned Victoria and Albert Museum.

But decades later, the church’s congregation has largely been scattered and the building that once housed the church remains abandoned, with developers eyeing the site for new projects.

According to The Guardian, Mayer-Marton’s commissioned artwork was recently damaged by vandalism.

This, combined with a years-long campaign waged by Mayer-Marton’s great-nephew Nick Braithwaite, has apparently convinced the UK government to list the building and the mural in it as a building of special interest warranting a preservation effort.

“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,” read the report by Historic England, a UK public body tasked with protecting the historic environment of England by preserving and listing historic buildings, monuments and parks.

The report added that the mural constituted “a major work in [Mayer-Marton’s oeuvre], much of which has been lost. The quality of execution and craftsmanship is superb, creating a piece of considerable power.”

The only other mural produced by Mayer-Marton after World War II that has survived to this day is called “The Pentecost” and is on display in Liverpool’s Metropolitan Cathedral.

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