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New church mosaic in progress

Rohn & Associates Design, Inc.

From left, Massimo Mellini, owner of Mellini Art Glass & Mosaics, and the Rev. John Warburton, pastor of St. Joachim Church, inspect a mosaic of St. Joachim that is being handcrafted in Pietrasanta, Italy.


The bare facade of St. Joachim Church will have a more colorful decor by Christmas, but it won’t be seasonal. If all goes as planned, a new mosaic there will replace one destroyed last year.

The Rev. John Warburton, pastor of the Catholic parish in Madera, and liturgical design consultant Rolf Rohn recently returned from checking on the new mosaic’s progress at Mellini Art Glass & Mosaics of Pietrasanta, Italy.

“We’re hoping it is completed within a couple of weeks then it will ship to us … (whether) by boat or plane,” said Enrique Medina, business administrator for St. Joachim Church. “The goal, depending on the weather, is to have the mosaic up by Christmas.”

Photographs of the mosaic being crafted in Italy may look a bit backwards, and that is no illusion.

“The image of St. Joachim is being fabricated in reverse on top of a carefully rendered artist’s cartoon,” said Marika Rohn of Rohn & Associates Design. “When it is completed and installed, the cartoon will be lifted away and the correct side revealed.”

The project is a collaboration of the multi-generation Italian artisan studio and Rohn & Associates Design of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which has coordinated the artwork and will put it up.

“His (Rolf Rohn’s) experience and guidance will be instrumental in the complex installation to prevent future deterioration and damage so that it can be a lasting symbol of welcome,” she said. The previous image on the front face of St. Joachim Church did not fare as well. A severe windstorm in April 2016 tore down most of its little tiles. Fortunately, it was insured.

“We had insurance that was replacement value,” Medina said. “Of course they didn’t expect anything like this to happen ... We have a $1,000 deductible and any improvements we would pay for it — anything above the original proposal that was sent to the insurance company.”

The new mosaic will be identical to the prior one except for a few variations.

“We’ve upgraded it a little bit,” said Medina. “It has more highlights and the name St. Joachim … (But other than that) it is the exact same image.”

Joachim (Joaquin in Spanish) is identified in an early Christian writing as the father of Mary, who was the mother of the Christian messiah Jesus. He is the namesake of both the parish and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley. The name Joachim itself is short for the Hebrew name Jehoiakim.

The previous mosaic had been modeled after a statue of the grandfather of Jesus that stood in the first church of St. Joachim in downtown Madera by Griffin Hall. The 1881 wooden church served local Catholics until the current one at West 4th and North I streets was finished in 1958. The newer 1,000-seat church is 180 feet long, 47 feet high and 97 feet wide, though the bell tower topped with a stainless steel cross is 135 feet high.

Rural property purchased north of the city of Madera may someday be the site of a new Catholic church.


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