Monday, September 23, 2013

Frescoes in a Primitive Style

Two doves and a chalice
As you may already know, frescoes (and later stained glass windows) in old churches were created to tell the stories of the Bible and teach the lessons of the Church to illiterate parishioners. According to a friend who is highly knowledgeable about religious wall paintings, it was very common for a newly-assigned parish priest to have old frescoes covered over with whitewash and new ones painted that told the stories he felt were important for his flock to know. Luckily, that didn't happen at the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Toulongergues. All of these frescoes have been dated to their origins in the 11th century.
Eagle holding a hare in his talons
This fresco of the eagle and the one above of the two doves are found high on the north wall of the choir in half-circle niches. The doves and chalice are easy to interpret...they represent the Eucharist. With a little sleuthing on the internet, I learned that in religious art the eagle can represent Christ and the hare uncleanliness and fear in the face of the Light, making this fresco a cautionary tale for worshipers.
The east wall of the choir has been heavily damaged probably during the years after the Revolution when the church was de-consecrated, sold, and used for storage by a local farmer. Our tour guide told us, however, that this fresco depicts the Apocalypse as recorded in the book of Revelation. The fresco is 'framed' by stone columns with carvings on them.
This is Eve...very lively and very naked! She shares the south wall of the choir with the saint below. I think she's my favorite of all the frescoes. It's hard to think of her as being the evil temptress of Adam, isn't it?
The best preserved and brilliant fresco is this unidentified saint. Since the church's patrons are St. Peter and St. Paul, it's thought that this may be one of them.

I'm pretty hooked on frescoes! But there is an interesting stone sculpture in this church. I'll share it next time.

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