MOJACAR’S Santa Maria church was built in the late 16th century, probably on the site of a mosque.
Like many churches on the Mediterranean coast, it was also a fortress where the population sheltered during pirate or Berber raids. Despite the church’s age, its altarpiece is much more recent and was painted by the German artist, Michael Sucker, between 1981 and 1982.
Although the town hall began the project and chose Sucker’s sketch from several that were submitted by local artists, he was paid only after Mojacar residents organised a collection to pay for his time and materials.
It has been said that Sucker suspected that the town hall’s budget of 15,000 pesetas (€90) found its way to the football club instead. Consequently he painted the local mayor’s mother with a football at her feet and although the original was sold to the American actor Charles Baxter, a copy of the portrait still hangs on a back wall of the church.