Pope blessing sought to resurrect lost mural

The Sacred Heart mural in 1958
The Sacred Heart mural in 1958
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INFLUENTIAL arts impresario Richard Demarco is to write to the Pope, calling for a hidden mural in a city church to be put back on public show.

Celebrated artist Derek Clarke – who died last week, aged 101 – was commissioned to paint the picture of Christ’s resurrection for the Sacred Heart RC Church in Lauriston Street in 1957.

Painter Derek Clarke in 2012. Picture: Lesley Martin

Painter Derek Clarke in 2012. Picture: Lesley Martin

However, less than a decade later the church decided to cover it up and it has never been seen since.

Mr Demarco said there would be no better tribute to his former tutor, who was Scotland’s oldest working artist until he passed away last Monday, than to uncover the mural.

He said since the Sacred Heart was run by Jesuits and Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pontiff, he planned to raise the matter with him directly.

“It’s one of the great works of art we have in Edinburgh. I’ve never understood why they covered it up,” he said. “It’s absolute nonsense that it’s hidden from view. I would go as far as to say it’s an act of cultural vandalism.

“Now we have the first Jesuit pope, I will write to Pope Francis and tell him we have this magnificent mural which defines Christianity and the world of the Jesuits and the time has come, in honour of the man who painted it, for it to be uncovered.

“There is no better way of honouring his lifetime than uncovering it.”

The mural features people in 1950s clothes. The then Archbishop, Gordon Gray, members of Mr Clarke’s family and some members of the congregation are included in the painting.

It has been suggested the painting would now look dated and “a bit too much” in a church which has a lot of ornate decoration.

Bur Mr Clarke’s son, Tristram, who appears in the mural as a babe in arms, said the family would be delighted if it could be seen again.

“It is a masterpiece and my father was very proud of it,” he said. “He didn’t want to be part of a campaign, but he was saddened by it being covered up.

“It would be very appropriate now for it to be seen and enjoyed in the way it was intended to be, as part of the decoration of the church.”

He rejected the idea the mural would be out of place with the rest of the decoration.

“My father was very careful about the colours he chose, to go with the rest of the church,” he said.

Sacred Heart parish priest Father Peter Scally said he had great respect for Mr Clarke, but there were no plans to uncover the mural.

He said: “It’s a great work of art and it’s not going to be destroyed – it was covered over in such a way that it would not be destroyed. But my door is not being beaten down by people from the congregation wanting it to be uncovered.”