A work of art from a closed UK parish church has been added to the National Heritage Register

LEICESTER, UK – Following a campaign by art historians, the British government has added the masterpiece ‘Oldham Mural’ to its national heritage register.

The church closed in 2017, jeopardizing the artwork titled “The Crucifixion”.


The mural is located in Holy Rosary Church in Oldham – a town in the Greater Manchester region of England. It is one of the most important works of Hungarian artist George Mayer-Marton, who died in 1960.

The Jewish artist pioneered the Byzantine mosaic method in England after fleeing Austria – where he settled after World War I – in 1938 following the Anschluss with Nazi Germany. He worked on several churches – particularly in the North West of England – after arriving in the country, creating ‘The Crucifixion’ – which is over 24ft long – at Holy Rosary in 1955.

“The fresco by George Mayer-Marton in Holy Rosary Church, Oldham is of great significance. The list recognizes it. The Heritage Committee looks forward to working with the Diocese of Salford [which covers the greater Manchester area], and all interested parties, to ensure the protection and proper conservation of this exceptional work of art. It is now urgent,” said Sophie Andreae, vice-president of the Heritage Committee of the Episcopal Conference.

The frescoes were partially overpainted in the 1980s, but experts say the artwork still exists underneath.

speaking to Node last year, Clare Willsdon, professor of art history at the University of Glasgow, noted that the piece is the only known Mayer-Marton mural that combines fresco painting and mosaic.

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“Both the historic “Byzantine” faceted mosaic technique which Mayer-Marton used for the Crucifixion element, and the Italian Renaissance-type “true fresco” which he used for the flanking figures of Mary and John , and the background sky, involve a physical integration of image and building that is very evocative and significant in relation to the Roman Catholic belief in transubstantiation,” she said. Node.

“For in Byzantine mosaic, which Mayer-Marton learned in Italy, the mosaic pieces – tesserae – are pressed into the still wet plaster of the wall, while fresco similarly involves painting on wet plaster, so the pigment chemically bonds to the wall as it dries. Images of the crucified Christ and his grieving mother and St. John were thus symbolically merged with the body of the church and the rituals that took place there, including Holy Communion at the altar directly below the painting. mural,” Willsdon explained.

The mural is now a Grade II listed building, giving it protection under UK law. Listed buildings cannot be demolished or altered without special permission. There are three grades under the law, but the vast majority of listed buildings are grade II.

UK Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston has released a statement explaining why the work has received legal protection.

“This magnificent mural in the Church of the Holy Rosary deserves a Grade II listing. This will protect the one-of-a-kind mural and serve as an important reminder for future generations of the escape of Hungarian artist George Mayer-Marton of Nazi persecution,” he said.

Mayer-Marton’s nephew, Nick Braithwaite, said he welcomed the listing of his uncle’s works.

“I am delighted that this exceptionally significant masterpiece is finally receiving the national recognition it deserves. I am grateful to everyone who helped bring us here and in particular to SAVE Britain’s Heritage for keeping the mural in the spotlight,’ he said.

SAVE Britain’s Heritage was set up in the 1970s by journalists, historians, architects and town planners to campaign publicly for endangered historic buildings, many of which had been destroyed in the UK’s post-war period -United.

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, called the listing of Mayer-Marton’s work “a fantastic achievement for Oldham and modern public art in England”.

“We are thrilled that the mural is now being celebrated and finally being given the recognition it deserves. Listing will open a new chapter for this building and work of art and we look forward to helping the Diocese of Salford find a sympathetic new owner,” she said.

The diocese said it was “committed to protecting the rare artwork of George Mayer-Marton and ensuring that the work is made more accessible to the public in the future”.