Mural in memory of Norbert F. Čapek, by
Norman Millet Thomas,
unveiled March 16, 1947 at the First Unitarian Church of Essex County, Orange, NJ
It has been a privilege to paint this mural in memory of Dr. Norbert Čapek. No painter of liberal and humanistic conviction could wish for a more inspired theme than that given by the life and philosophy of Dr. Čapek.
This mural attempts pictorially to interpret the profound truth for which he lived and for which he surrendered his life. The mural also depicts symbolically those menacing evils against which he fought so valiantly.
While the features of Dr. Čapek himself do not appear in this painting, he is yet there. He is there in the pierced hand of Jesus. He is there in the burning body of Michael Servetus, the first Unitarian martyr, who died at the stake three hundred and ninety years almost to the day before Dr. Čapek. He is there in the symbol of the spirit of progressive man pursuing his unending struggle toward that which does not yet appear.
Dr. Čapek is there in the seal of the church he founded, a symbol which gave enheartenment and courage to his people during the tensest days of the Nazi occupation. . . .
The shield contains the sunflowers of hope rising from the nourishing earth towards the sun's bright rays. These sunflowers of hope are rooted ... in the spiritual soil of Unitarianism indicated by the letter U which encompasses them. The Latin words within the seal VERITAS VINCIT mean simply that truth conquers. Prior to the Nazi invasion the motto appeared on the seal in the Czech language PRAVDA VITEZI but "truth conquers" was a forbidden phrase under the Hitler blackout. Although Prague Unitarians knew that the Latinizing of the motto did not in the remotest degree change its meaning, the Nazis never discovered that "truth conquers" in Czech is still "truth conquers" when it is said in Latin.
The figures surrounding Servetus symbolize those things over which truth ultimately makes the conquest. In the immediate foreground the brutal arm with fist gripping the whip is the obvious symbol of unmasked oppression. It finds its personalization in the militaristic figure whose hand is drenched in blood. Although, from the artistic standpoint, crimson is an aesthetically pleasing color, we should yet remember that when used in association with reactionary militarism it is, and it is meant to be, a reminder of unprecedented bestiality and horror. Let us never forget Lidice!
Directly behind the personification of militarism is the dark and superstitious personalization of clerical reaction currently known as clerical fascism. It is from the relentless stranglehold of this callous ecclesiasticism that liberal religion under the leadership of men like Dr. Capek seeks to set men free.
Immediately behind the symbol for clerical fascism is a white-hooded figure who might in our own country represent Klanism, but who is truly representative of racial prejudice and religious bigotry in any part of the world.
The symbolization of despotism in this section of the mural would not be complete without the grim, pious, praying ecclesiastic below Servetus whose hypocrisy countenances the burning of the body under the guise of saving the soul.
Should this realistic symbolism make us as fully aware as we, as Unitarians should be, of the dread spectres which continue to haunt humanity, let us, in the spirit of Norbert Čapek, weave courage with pain. As his valiant spirit was so resilient with hope and faith while in the midst of adversity, let us work for and hold to his invincible conviction: TRUTH CONQUERS.