Maxo Vanka painting soldier

Vanka Murals

Maxo Vanka’s “Gift to America:” art that lives on

Maxo Vanka completed 25 individual murals in two brief but intense periods in 1937 and 1941. He then returned to the Church in 1951 to add the five symbols of Christianity to the choir loft.

Vanka’s paint medium was not obvious. It is documented that he tried to make his own from a variety of substances – including mayonnaise – but finally settled on a commercial preparation of casein.

Father Zagar lightly prescribed the artist’s subject matter and Vanka maximized his opportunity to pay tribute to faith while expressing his passionate beliefs about social justice, injustice, the horrors of war and helping to preserve and celebrate cultural identity among an immigrant population.

The 75-plus year presence of the 25 main murals has been largely unaltered with approximately 4,500 square feet of the original paintings on constant display. Other aspects of Vanka’s work including a detailed textile design that covered almost every other open wall and pillar space were modified in keeping with the needs of the Church.

Although not a western Pennsylvania artist, Vanka’s work is reminiscent of the visual storytellers at work during the same time period. Vanka referred to the murals as his “Gift to America.” This collection has been compared to the works of the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.

Each mural tells a story

The 1937 murals

Mary, Queen of Croatia and Arch Mural

Mary, Queen of Croatia and Arch (438sf)

Pastoral Croatia Mural

Pastoral Croatia (75sf)

Croatians in America Mural

Croatians in America (75sf)

Disciple Matthew Mural

The Evangelists: Matthew (1,360sf/340sf ea)

Disciple Mark Mural

The Evangelists: Mark (1,360sf/340sf ea)

Disciple Luke Mural

The Evangelists: Luke (1,360sf/340sf ea)

Disciple John Mural

The Evangelists: John (1,360sf/340sf ea)

Crucifixion Mural

Crucifixion (200sf)

Pieta Mural

Pieta (200sf)

Immigrant Mother Gives Her Sons for American Industry

Immigrant Mother Gives Her Sons for American Industry (100sf)

Croatian Mother Raises Her Son for War Mural

Croatian Mother Raises Her Son for War (100sf)

The 1941 murals

Justice Mural

Justice (100 sf)

Injustice Mural

Injustice (100 sf)

Mary on the Battlefield Mural

Mary on the Battlefield (325 sf)

Christ on the Battlefield Mural

Christ on the Battlefield (325 sf)

Prudence Mural

Prudence (100 sf)

Mati Mural

Mati, 1941 (100 sf)

The Disciples Mural
The Transcendent Vision Mural Ceiling

Transcendent Vision (including Disciples) (Ceiling – 520 sf)

The Disciples Mural
The Old Testament Mural

Old Testament (320 sf)

The New Testament Mural

New Testament (320 sf)

The Capitalist Mural

The Capitalist (70 sf)

Simple Family Meal mural

The Simple Family Meal (70 sf)

St. Francis mural

St. Francis (110sf)

St. Claire mural

St. Claire (110sf)