‘Christ on the Cross’ – Unger/Eber
the High Altar in most churches usually hangs a large crucifix depicting
the ultimate sacrifice of Calvary. In our church here at St. Jude’s,
however, the scene of the Crucifixion is captured by a wonderful,
huge mosaic that dominates the wall above the altar.
This splendid work, which bears the signature “Unger/Eber”,
was designed by Hans Unger, and created by mosaic artist, Eberhard
Schulze, and is truly a richly colourful and inspiring centre-piece.
Indeed, our church is worth a visit, if only to view this beautiful
work of art.
The two Germans began combining their considerable skills in the
early 1960’s, and, through their superb mosaic work for London
Transport, came to the attention of L.A.G. Pritchard & Sons,
architects of St. Jude’s Church.
In October 2002, Mr. Schulze kindly sent us the following notes,
which he made in 1965, soon after the completion of the mosaic:
first large-scale religious mosaic mural was for the new parish
church of St Jude’s in Wigan. The architects L A G Prichard
were asked to design a modern, fan-shaped building for a congregation
of about 600. The dominant feature was going to be the mosaic, Christ
on the Cross, above the altar. The mosaic measures 17 ft by 9 ft,
depicting Christ on the Cross, with the Blessed Virgin Mary, His
Mother, and St John standing near. The colours used in the figure
of Christ are white, light grey to dark-grey and set against strong
black lines to intensify the shape of the body. Small amounts of
red tesserae (mosaic pieces) depict the wounds of the crucifixion.
The halo is executed in gold sheet tesserae.
The colours used for the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary are light
beige to dark brown, and for the figure of St John, a range of yellows
and green smalti (opaque glass handcrafted in Italy). The dominant
colour of the background is blue tesserae with larger pieces of
stained glass or Venetian smalti fused ceramic tiles. The overall
effect is of a richness not often seen in modern mosaics.
To cover the area, almost a thousand pounds of Venetian smalti are
applied. The larger-sized ceramic tiles were specially made in our
studio. These tiles were cut into shape to the sizes required and
although the wastage was more than 50 per cent, the overall effect
was worth the effort. The shapes of the sections are determined
by the design. The tesserae and tiles are set into a special pliable
mixture of dark coloured cement onto a base of marine plywood covered
with expanded metal. The mosaic is executed in the direct method
and took seven months to be completed and installed.
I worked for two weeks in the spring of 1965 in a half-finished
and cold church in Wigan installing the mosaic; every section weighed
about 200lbs and had to be carried and lifted up a scaffold by several
men, and put into position. Nearing completion, I remember Fr Tobin
proclaiming in a loud voice, “It simply is magnificent”
and many of the workmen came near for the very first time to have
a look at the mosaic they had so far completely ignored.
St Jude’s church was blessed and officially opened by George
Andrew Beck, the Archbishop of Liverpool, on Tuesday 13 July 1965.”
Certainly, the gorgeous, rich blues that predominate in the mosaic,
its conviction and fluid movement, are testimony of the skills of
two very fine artists.
Above: 1964 : Eberhard Schulze (left)
works on the mosaic with designer, Hans Unger.
Hans Unger became acknowledged as one of the best mosaic designers
in London and his smaller works became sought after by private buyers.
Tragically, he ended his own life in June 1975.
Sadly, Eberhard Schulze was forced to give up mosaic-making, when
a spinal injury forced him into early retirement.
He went on to develop a successful career as a specialist aquarist,
becoming England’s leading discus fish breeder and even carried
out aquarium installations for the rich and famous, such as the
Saudi Royal Family and the Sultan of Brunei. He now lives in Nonthaburi
This article was sent to us by St Judes Churcjh
in Wigan, England