Medieval wall paintings uncovered in Welsh church

Rare medieval paintings thought to be “beyond compare in Wales” are being uncovered on the walls of a church.

Medieval wall paintings uncovered in Welsh church
Detail of wall painting showing St. George slaying the Dragon [Credit: BBC]
The artwork features St George and the Dragon, said to be one of the best examples of its kind in the UK. And a mural depicting Death and the Gallant is the only one of its kind found in Wales.

These stunning 15th-century images are being painstakingly unearthed on the walls of St Cadoc’s church in Llancarfan in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Sam Smith, the restoration committee’s chairman, said it had always been suspected that the walls’ limewash hid something.

The committee hired a conservator in February 2008 to start the exploration process and when their suspicions were confirmed, a restoration appeal was launched, collecting more than £100,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Cadw and private funding.

Now the work is rediscovering images that have lain hidden under 21 layers of limewash for 460 years – since the Reformation.

Ian Fell, for the restoration appeal said: “The walls are mind-blowing. They’ve still got quite a way to go but I think it’s beyond compare in Wales.”

Among the first found were parts of a painting of St George and the Dragon, as well as a princess and lamb, destined to be the dragon’s dinner, and a king and queen watching from above.

“In 2008 when they found that, they said we had probably the best St George and the Dragon that had been found in a church in Britain in a very long time,” said Mr Smith.

Medieval wall paintings uncovered in Welsh church
One of the rare works of art at St Cadoc's Church [Credit: Wales Online]
The most recent work has uncovered more of the medieval castle, from where the ginger- bearded king and his distraught queen are watching from the battlements. There’s even someone looking out of a window, that’s very unusual, no-one expected that at all,” Mr Smith said. “When you think these were painted around 1480 and they’re still visible quite clearly it really is quite something.

Early work had also revealed a skeletal head and the face of a man in a woolly Monmouth cap, but the committee had not realised at first they were connected.

Emerging new details show, the pair are part of a depiction of Death and the Gallant, with the skeleton complete with a worm crawling through his rib cage, set to lead the man to purgatory.

“Death and the Gallant is very important because it’s very unusual, very seldom seen, in fact no Death and the Gallant has ever been seen in a church in Wales before,” said Mr Smith.

He said the reason why the church may have had such elaborate artwork painted on its walls was because of its importance in the 15th century.

Mr Smith said: “It had been founded on the site of Cadoc’s church.

“It was the church opposite the monastery. It’s likely they considered it to be the local church in the area, that’s why they decorated it in this way.”

He added that as there were two wealthy families in the area, they were likely to have paid for the painter, probably explaining why their crests are in the designs.

Professional conservators have been slowly revealing the art, using scalpels and spatulas to remove the layers of limewash and injecting slaked lime putty behind the paintings to secure them for future display.

The scaffolding they were using was taken down at the weekend to allow the congregation and project’s supporters to see the progress.

Author: Claire Miller Source: Wales Online [November 29, 2013]

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