Mayer-Marton mosaic may be saved after all | Mary Holman

There may be a chance for a Byzantine mosaic of the Crucifixion made by a Jewish artist who fled the Nazis to be saved, after all. The Christian Heritage Centre has received permission by Bishop Arnold of Salford to raise money to transfer this mosaic from the decommissioned Holy Rosary church to the Theodore House.

Transferring the mosaic may be a tedious and expensive process, but art historians, former parishioners, and those committed to teach against the evils of the Holocaust say it is worth saving this piece from the fate of its deterioration inside a closed church.

Currently, the mosaic rests above the altar in the Holy Rosary Catholic church in Fitton Hill, Oldham. The church is one of many that have been closed down across the north-west due to an overall lack of church goers and priests. Consequently, the boarded-up mosaic has no audience and no funds to upkeep it.

The beautiful piece is about 26 feet high and intricately made up of tiny pieces of glass and stone. The tiny pieces are carefully composed into Jesus’ body, His royal-blue cross, and a surrounding and gleaming golden orb.

The artist of this mosaic, Georg Mayer-Marton, was a Jewish Hungarian and leading artist in Vienna who fled the rule of Hitler in 1938. He came to England with his wife, a skilled pianist, and together they started their life anew.

Two years later in 1940, his studio home was hit by a bomb during the London Blitz and the majority of everything he owned and created was destroyed. It took eight years for him to recover and create art again. During this time, he learned that both his parents and his brother perished in the Holocaust.

The sorrow and suffering that Mayer-Marton felt combined with his skilled Byzantine style shows itself in a number of commissions he did for a variety of churches and schools in England. According to the Guardian article, many art historians have appealed to Bishop Arnold of Salford to save the mosaic he did for Holy Rosary in particular.

John Lewis, Chairman of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, wrote to Bishop Arnold that this piece was, “an unusual commission …which must be preserved. Mayer-Marton’s work in churches during this period has considerable historic and religious significance.”

Julian Treuherz, former keeper of art galleries at National Museums Liverpool, told the Guardian that, “His mosaics, much larger in scale and more ambitious in content, are his most distinguished and powerful works.”

The mosaic, featuring Jesus the suffering Jew, is perhaps how Mayer-Marton reminded Christians the existence and permanence of evil, its effects, and their same quest against it.

If enough money is raised to move the Crucifixion mosaic 60 miles away to the Theodore House, the piece and Mayer-Marton’s narrative will be used to educate visitors, parishes, and schools about the Holocaust and the fight by many for religious freedom.

The piece and Mayer-Marton’s narrative will be featured along the stories of Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Lord Alton of Liverpool, Chairman of the Christian Heritage Centre, says, “Their stories remind us that while too many people collaborated, others bravely spoke out and paid the ultimate price.”

It is an awful truth that anti-Semitism in Britain is not a distant notion of the past. Just recently Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party and of Her Majesty’s Opposition was discovered in 2014 laying down a wreath to honour the anti-Semitic terrorists of the 1972 Munich Massacre.

A couple weeks ago, Emeritus Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks gave a speech in the House of Lords in response to the growing tolerance of anti-Semitism in Britain:

 

“Anti-Semitism, or any hate, becomes dangerous when three things happen: First, when it moves from the fringes of politics to a mainstream party and its leadership. Second, when the party sees that its popularity with the general public is not harmed thereby. And three, when those who stand up and protest are vilified and abused for doing so. All three factors exist in Britain now. I never thought I would see this in my lifetime. That is why I cannot stay silent, for it is not only Jews who are at risk, so too is our humanity.”

 

The rise of anti-Semitism makes remembering the Holocaust that much more important.

The mosaic will be transferred by dissembling it piece by piece and then reassembling it at its new location. Roughly £20,000 have already been raised. It will cost around £250,000 total.

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