Ohio Icon: The Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center's Behalf

Ohio Icon: The Amish and Mennonite Heritage Center's Behalf

A mural at Holmes County’s Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center’s Behalf

Holmes County’s Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center’s Behalf

Location: Inside Mural Hall at Holmes County’s Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center museum and library.

Provenance: Completed by self-taught artist Heinz Gaugel in 1992, Behalt is a cyclorama that illustrates the saga of the Mennonite, Amish, and Hutterite people who believe in adult baptism, and shows significant events in the history of Christianity. Gaugel, who spent 14 years researching and painting the circular mural, derived its title from the German word behalten, which means “to keep” or “to remember.” The Heritage Center’s Mural Hall was built to house Gaugel’s epic painting, and in 1993, he created a second work of art for its exterior: Immigrants’ Arrival in the New World, which features oversized sgraffito figures of 18th-century settlers from Switzerland and Germany.

Significance: Behalt is a unique pictorial narrative designed to acquaint visitors with the origins of the faith-based, family-centered “plain people” who live and work in northeast Ohio’s Amish Country. Measuring 10 feet tall and 265 feet long, the oil-on-canvas painting vividly depicts more than 1,200 historic individuals, including Jesus Christ; the Roman Emperor Constantine; Martin Luther; the Anabaptist martyr Dirk Willems; Jonas Stutzman, who was Holmes County’s first Amish settler; and Gaugel himself, whose self-portrait shows him with paint brushes. One of the few cycloramas in North America, Behalt is the only one executed by a single artist.

Currently: As both a major Amish Country attraction and the Heritage Center’s focal point, Behalt attracts thousands of visitors every year. “We get people from all 50 states and from around the world,” says Executive Director Marcus Yoder. The Heritage Center also has numerous exhibits about Amish customs, clothing, and religious practices; a bookstore specializing in Anabaptist literature and videos; and a gift shop that carries baskets, brooms, toys, and other handcrafted Amish-Mennonite items. Displayed on its grounds are a historic Amish school and a pioneer barn containing a Conestoga wagon.

It’s a little-known fact that: Gaugel varied the size of the people he portrayed in Behalt according to their relative importance. Thus, Christ is by far the largest figure, while Constantine and Luther are smaller than Christ but larger than Stutzman.