Stunning 1600s mural found behind Chapel altarpiece
An astonishingly well preserved mural has been discovered behind an altarpiece in a northern Portuguese chapel.
Frescoes of over four metres in length and five metres high, painted in the early 1600s, show the story of St. John the Baptist. The work was discovered in the chapel of Santo Cristo, in Picote, when work began to restore the high altar.
The discovery was made after work started to see what was needed to restore the altarpiece,
“When we arrived at the chapel to look at the altarpiece, we noticed that there was mural painting behind it, although hardly visible,” said Lília Pereira da Silva, director of the Centre for Conservation and Restoration of Sacred Art in the diocese of Bragança-Miranda.
“It was decided that there was only one logical thing to do: to dismantle the altar to find out the extent of the mural,” she added.
The altarpiece was dismantled carefully and, to everyone’s surprise, a large and important “decorative panel from the sixteenth century, full of color, red and ochre, intense and decorative zones imitating fabric of the period, all created an atmosphere of greater warmth, almost dazzling,” said Joaquim Caetano, a specialist in ancient mural paintings.
A member of the Miranda do Douro City Council, Anabela Torrão, says she is “astonished with such wealth” and appreciates the “exceptional work done by the Centre for Sacred Art’s technicians.”
Joaquim Caetano, an art historian, believes this to be “a unique work, a unique study of John the Baptist, in terms of the painting and the scenes that are represented.
Although the painting is in a good state of conservation, technicians from the Centre for Sacred Art will restore some of the faded and missing detail.
For the technicians, it is fundamental to respect the age of the work and not lake it look like it was painted yesterday.
The Regional Directorate of Culture for the north of Portugal has expressed, “a great desire to classify that site as a patrimony of public interest,” said Lília Pereira da Silva.