A five-year effort to save a Catholic mural in a defunct church has finally born fruit.
The “Oldham Mural,” which depicts the Crucified Christ flanked by Mary and St. John, was awarded a Grade II listing on England’s National Heritage Register.
Titled “The Crucifixion,” the work stands within the now closed Church of the Holy Rosary in Oldham. The property is still under the ownership of the Diocese of Salford, but it was closed in 2017. Since then, custodians have worried that the mural could fall into disrepair or be damaged by vandals.
Aleteia previously reported that the mural, which combines the mosaic and fresco styles, was completed in 1955 by famed 20th-century Hungarian artist Georg Mayer-Marton. The work features a fully mosaic crucifix, a style that was extended to the haloes around Mary and St. John, while the remaining wall space was painted in fresco.
The fresco elements were largely painted over in the 1980s, and this is one of the reasons it took so long to be recognized as a heritage site. In 2017, SAVE Britain’s Heritage, the organization that led the charge for the Oldham Mural’s preservation, submitted its case and was rejected on the grounds that the frescoes were covered and thought to no longer be intact.
Over the following five years, however, tests found the frescoes were in good shape underneath the layer of paint. Furthermore, SAVE Britain’s Heritage is confident it can restore the work to its original condition.
In a report from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, Sophie Andreae, Vice Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Patrimony Committee, commented:
“The George Mayer-Marton mural in Oldham’s Holy Rosary Church is of great importance. The listing recognises this. The Patrimony Committee looks forward to working with Salford Diocese, and all interested parties, to ensure the protection and proper conservation of this outstanding artwork. This is now urgent.”
According to the Bishops’ report, the Grade II listing was made by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) on the recommendation of Historic England. Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston commented on the new status of the mural:
“This stunning mural in the Church of the Holy Rosary deserves to be listed at Grade II. This will protect the one-of-a-kind mural and serve as an important reminder for future generations of Hungarian artist George Mayer-Marton’s escape from Nazi persecution.”