MOSAIC MURAL OF THE LORD'S SUPPER
For decades, the parishioners of Our Lady of Lourdes Church did not realize that they were the custodians of one of Bro John Joseph McNally's masterpieces: a mosaic mural of the Lord's Supper.
Bro McNally was a LaSalle Brother, the founder of LASALLE College of Arts, Singapore and a renowned Irish artist.
Fr Emile Marie Henri Sausseau M.E.P. built the parish in 1905. The current brick church, with its Gothic architecture, had replaced the original wooden building which was blessed on September 8, 1959 by three bishops. They were His Excellency Rt. Rev. Msgr. Michael Olcomendy M.E.P., the then Archbishop of Singapore, His Excellency Rt. Rev. Msgr Francis Chan, the then Bishop of Penang and His Excellency Rt. Rev. Msgr. Dominic Aloysius Vendargon, the then Bishop of Kuala Lumpur.
Fr Xavier Anthony Dass, who built the new church, was called to the Lord on June 19, 1961 before he could complete the additional work. However, he had briefed his assistant, Fr Lionel Stanislaus Norris, on what extras needed to be done. Fr Norris, together with Fr Lucien Catel M.E.P., called for La Salle Brother, John Joseph McNally, who was a renowned artist and sculptor. In 1960, accompanied by Bro Vincent Jeremiah Corkery, the Sub Director at St Michael’s Institution (SMI) Ipoh, Bro McNally visited the church in Silibin Road. SMI is also the guardian and custodian to other Bro McNally works. Among the famous ones are the Paterfamilas and Falcon & Falconer, made from metal bumpers taken from abandoned vehicles.
Bro McNally designed the mural of the Last Supper, to give emphasis to the altar and to hide the exit to the sacristy. The mural, consisting of various types of stone and glass tesserae, was made in Italy under his supervision and completed in 1961 at a cost of $10,000.00, a princely sum at that time. The mosaic mural was consecrated on Feb 13, 1963 by then Bishop of Penang, Bishop Francis Chan and were witnessed by over 1,000 parishioners.
In 2010, during the tenure of Rev. Fr. Bernard Paul and Rev. Fr. Stanley Antoni, it was found that many mosaic pieces had fallen off and some cracks had appeared. Commander Ian Anderson, RN (Rtd), the Director of Ipoh World Sdn. Bhd. was consulted. He advised on the need for an expert to restore the mural. However, no suitable experts could be found in Malaysia.
In 2015, the mural was restored to its former glory by Elenora Koh Bee Liang and her team from Artglass Singapore notably Samuel Leow Ah Swee and Nelson Tan Keng Soon.
The Last Supper mosaic mural was rededicated on October 11, 2015, by Rev. Fr. Robert Daniel and Rev. Fr. Simon Anad. The ceremony was officiated by Yang Berbahagia Rev. Dato' Bro. Vincent Jeremiah Corkery F.S.C., D.P.M.P. who is the Executive Director of Las Salle Centre and Brother Director of St. Michael's Institution, Ipoh. A plaque was unveiled at the altar to commemorate the event.
Dato’ Bro. Vincent in his speech said, “This now gives Lourdes Ipoh the great honour of being the custodian of one of Br Joseph’s most famous masterpieces, the one and only copy in the world. Hence the care being taken for its maintenance by the parish”.
He added, “Bro Joseph rarely explained his intentions, allowing us the freedom to decide on its significance. And so, for many years, we saw it as portraying the Last Supper. We now see it as a unique portrayal of the Apostles concelebrating the Eucharist with the Risen Christ. Therefore it's right to be known as the Mosaic Mural of The Lord's Supper
“This has special meaning for our Liturgy, as we gather for Mass as God’s priestly people, joining the Risen Christ and his Apostles in our celebration. This masterpiece blends well in the Eucharistic Celebration. Judas’ vacant chair symbolizes betrayal, a warning to be united as a community, following the great command of Jesus to love one another as He loves us. We can choose either to be like Judas or to be a righteous person, joining the banquet of the Lord in Heaven.”