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      September 2010 > Iconic scenes

Iconic scenes

Inside one of the many highly painted churches in GoremeYou don’t have to be religious to appreciate the monumental architecture of many mosques and cathedrals and the fantastic works of art to be found within. Visit Istanbul, and I challenge you not to stand in silent awe beneath the magnificent bejewelled dome of the Blue Mosque.

But sometimes, much more modest buildings hide treasures of equal grandeur and artistic importance. Cappadocia in central Turkey is famed for its fairy chimneys and rock churches. Some are staggering in the complexity of their construction - or rather ‘excavation’ - yet even some of the smaller and most inconspicuous churches hide wall paintings of unbelievable colour and vibrancy (left). Although the open-air museum in Goreme is the best place to go and see lots of examples, there are others that one almost stumbles upon, when walking in Cappadocia.

Take a walk along a quiet valley just outside the pretty village of La Brigue in the French Alpes-Maritimes, and you’ll reach a rather unassuming building at the end of a quiet lane that gives no indication of the extent of the veritable treasure trove hidden inside. Virtually every square inch of the interior walls of the church of Notre Dame des Fontaines is covered with vivid paintings depicting the life of the Virgin Mary and the Passion of Christ in all its gore and glory (right). Painted by two Italian artists - it’s only a few kilometres to the border - Giovanni Baleison and Giovanni Canavesio, the work was completed in 1492 and, though it’s hard to believe, these clear, colourful and detailed paintings have never been restored.

St George and the dragon, PickeringIf you think this is a continental phenomenon, think again. Churches in England were once adorned with colourful paintings too, and despite the ravages - and whitewash - of the Reformation, there are still a few hidden gems out there. In the Middle Ages, paintings were an important tool of the clergy in teaching a mostly illiterate congregation the biblical and other Christian stories. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the Church St Peter & St Paul in Pickering, on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors and just a few miles from Inntravel’s offices. This has scenes ranging from the Coronation of the Virgin Mary and the martyrdom of St Edmund to the death of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral and St George slaying the dragon (left). Taken as a whole, the Pickering murals are an astonishing medieval record, and well worth a visit.

Posted: 24/09/2010 16:12:39 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: France, heritage, Turkey, UK

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