BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Rare artwork has been uncovered at a south Buffalo Catholic church.
Murals painted about 100 years ago inside Holy Family Church, now Our Lady of Charity on south Park, have been revealed in a large restoration project.
“Before I leave this earth — someone else should know about it,” declared Henry Swiatek, sr.
It's been Swiatek's mission to reveal these original, gilded Celtic murals inside the former Holy Family Church.
The Swiatek family is in the restoration business.
Swiatek says he learned the Celtic murals had been painted over in the 1960's when he started working at the parish back in the early 1980's.
“If you looked at the black and white photo you knew where they where and then if you found one — one piece of information leads to the other to the other,” Swatek explained.
It took years, but Swiatek says he was finally able to convince the parish to begin the restoration process.
His son, Brett Swiatek, who now runs Swiatek studios is conducting the restoration.
“This is very rare,” remarked Swiatek, jr. “This church in particular in the 20's had been so ornate that it made national recognition. They’re very unique — they’re one of a kind.”
The paintings were the work of Danish artist Frode Rambusch, who brought the gorgeous Celtic work to a south buffalo neighborhood — home to many Irish immigrants.
“And he was recruited to come here by the pastor at the time to decorate the church,” Swiatek, jr.
Swiatek says they've spent the last three years removing layers and layers of paint to reveal these treasures.
The restoration is now about 90-percent complete and the church should be open for Easter Sunday.
“Like pieces to a puzzle — you could follow the clues — and through old photographs and following the clues the architecture we were able to identify where we should look,” described Swiatek, jr.
“We started out with just little small patches and people asked us how did you know where to look,” noted Swiatek, sr.
Total restoration for this project is estimated at more than $1.2-million and a gofundme page has been set up to raise some of that funding.
“The monetary value of the project so far has been privately funded and a lot of it volunteer,” said Swiatek, jr.
"I know this is a neighborhood church, but everything was done to the highest level that it could be done,” Swiatek, sr. stated. “The grandson of Frode Rambusch — the grandson is now 89 years old — came here and he said oh yes that’s exactly the way my grandfather would have done it.”
“Given the commitment you made to this — what does it feel like right now for you to stand here,” asked Buckley.
“I’m going to use a sports analogy — if you were a baseball player and someone asked you would you like to play in the World Series — this is the World Series of our profession,” Swiatek, sr.
“These are living — breathing — museums — that we can experience. Churches were once and still are a gathering place for the finest art and artists any where int he world,” Swiatek, jr. stated.
"What about your Catholic faith and the meaning?," Buckley questioned.
“From a religious standpoint — don't we need hope — don't we need good stories especially in the church today,” responded Swaitek, sr.