By Kent Larsen
Artist Restore's Cedar City's Old Rock Church Baptistry Mural
CEDAR CITY, UTAH -- For nearly 30 years former BYU art professor Max
Dickson Weaver has looked after a unique mural painted in the
baptistry of Cedar City's historic LDS Chapel, the Old Rock Church.
Weaver first discovered the mural in 1974, and has since spent many
hours caring for and restoring the mural, which has been threatened
several times by water damage and by the needs of the local
The exact history of the mural and baptistry is still a little murky.
The Chapel was built during the Great Depression using local
materials, and the baptistry was constructed at that time. "I loved
this building," says Weaver. "It was one of a kind. Everything used
in its construction was native to this area. I thought of teams of
horses that hauled the rocks and the cedar trees down here and the
people who worked all day for a dollar.
Part of the original construction, the baptistry includes font walls
constructed of the same stone used on the building's exterior. Above
the rocks that make up the font walls, a Hurricane, Utah artist named
Covington painted a mural of the baptism of Christ. The floor and
inside of the walls was covered with local stones and gems. "The
whole thing was built during the Depression, and the project was
literally a love affair with the community," says Weaver.
But by 1969, the font was in disrepair. Water damage had also left
the mural in bad shape, leaving the paint flaking in places because
the water had reacted with the plaster covering the walls. Local
authorities then discontinued using the font, but used the room as a
Weaver decided when he first saw the baptistry in 1974 that the mural
simply had to be preserved. He removed the flaking paint and
repainted those portions of the mural. He purchased very expensive
varnish and covered the mural to preserve the paint.
But two years later he had to repair new damage to the mural, from
tape used by Sunday School classes. Weaver managed at that time to
get local officials to prohibit the use of tape in the room.
Then in 1989, water damage made it necessary for the ceiling to be
replaced, and local church officials then decided that the mural,
which also extends onto the ceiling, could not be saved. But, once
again, Weaver persuaded the officials to change their minds, and
offered to repaint the damaged areas and preserve them.
This past Thursday and Friday Weaver was at it again, during a family
reunion, painting in white spaces over the font where repairs had
been made while a grandson and baby great-granddaughter watched. He
also went around the room, touching up once more to keep it in good
But Weaver is now 84 and lives more than 200 miles to the north, in
Orem, Utah, so he doesn't know how many more times he will be able to
repair and maintain the mural. But he believes the effort has been
worth it. Tours still come through the chapel regularly, and people
see the mural, knowing there that the LDS Church believes that Jesus
was baptized by John the Baptist.
Artist brings new life to historic mural
St George UT Spectrum 26Aug01 A2
By Karen Owen