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St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church

Three Rivers

St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church

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Location Details

PHONE: 412-821-3438
ADDRESS: 24 Maryland Ave
Millvale, PA 15209
HOURS: Mass: Sat 6pm; Sun at noon; second Sunday of the month in Croatian The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka docent hours: Sat 11am, 12pm, and 1pm. Tours by appointment: docentmanager@vankamurals.org Website: www.vankamurals.org
COST: donations accepted

Description

Born in 1900 as the daughter church of St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic on East Ohio Street, St. Nicholas Croatian Church in Millvale has led a sometimes difficult but ultimately rewarding life.

In 1921, the church suffered a devastating fire that gutted its interior. The parishioners, all steelworkers in the nearby mills, immediately started to rebuild. Although structural repairs were completed by the mid-1930s, the walls remained bare.

Father Albert Zagar, the parish priest, heard about a Croatian artist named Maxo Vanka who had recently arrived in eastern Pennsylvania. The priest and the artist agreed that Vanka would have free rein to paint St. Nicholas as long as his work was religious in character. “We wanted to beautify the church,” Father Zagar explained. “We wanted murals that would tell the story of this parish, of the people.”

In two brief but intense sessions (the first in 1937, the second in 1941), Vanka created darkly powerful murals. His images weave religious themes together with the experiences of the parish’s immigrant workers. The stories are told in the context of war, injustice, poverty, and the hope of redemption. (Legend has it that there was even a ghost haunting the project.)

Named to the National Historic Register, St. Nicholas Croatian Church in Millvale is still a vibrant spiritual home to local Croatians, and Vanka’s murals continue to be heralded as works of art.

Founded in 1991, The Society to Preserve the Millvale Murals of Maxo Vanka (www.vankamurals.org) has been dedicated to the long-term preservation and promotion of Vanka's "Gift to America". Since 2009, SPMMMV has been leading the fundraising campaign to support their conservation and the installation of dedicated lighting. More than $500,000 has been raised toward this goal with efforts continuing until conservation and the lighting installation is complete.

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