Wall paintings in St. Nicholas Museum being touched up

Wall paintings in St. Nicholas Museum being touched up

Wall paintings in St. Nicholas Museum being touched up

Within the scope of a restoration and landscaping project implemented by the Culture and Tourism Ministry, the wall paintings that were previously unearthed in the St. Nicholas Museum in the southern province of Antalya’s Demre district are getting a retouch.

New murals from the 11th century were also unearthed during the work at the museum.

The St. Nicholas Museum is one of the holy places of the Orthodox world. Under the supervision of the Demre Lycian Civilizations Museum Directorate, a team of three people, headed by conservation specialist Uğur Yalçınkaya, scientific analyzes of the original materials that make up the wall paintings and the repair of its damaged parts are being carried out with advanced techniques.

“We got information about the materials used in the making of medieval paintings and the methods of their production. The repairs made in the past were also examined. Inspections were made to detect the distortions in the paintings. For the documentation of the paintings, imaging techniques such as UV photography, side light shots and orthophoto were used. All the wall paintings were examined closely and digitized. According to the information we obtained, the wall paintings were made with a method called ‘Secco’ [painting on dry plaster], using mineral pigments on lime-based plasters in the Middle Ages,” Yalçınkaya said.

Stating that the deterioration of the wall paintings and their causes were also found during their studies, Yalçınkaya said, “We determined that the preservation of these paintings depends on the preservation of the structure they are in. With a new roof to be built after the restoration works, the reinforcement of the museum structure and the underground and rainwater drainage system, the paintings will be preserved better. Plaster and paints, which are the elements that make up the wall paintings, are reinforced by injecting special materials. On the surfaces of the paintings, the pollution caused by environmental conditions is cleaned with special materials. Images are made more visible and understandable.”

The Demre Lycian Civilizations Museum Director Nilüfer Sezgin also talked about the paintings in the St. Nicholas Memorial Museum.

“The paintings were made with the fresco technique in the 11th and 12th centuries. They consist of a single figure with the themes of the Bible, the Torah, the life of Mary, and the ordeal of Jesus. Apart from this, there are scenes from the life of St. Nicholas on the domes and vault level of the Southern Burial Chamber, which was built in the south of the church. In the scenes featuring the miracles of St. Nicholas, scenes such as protecting the sailor families from the storm, healing the sick, helping families without children are depicted,” she said.

“The ones in the South Burial Chamber were painted in the 12th century. Outside the South Burial Chamber, Jesus offers bread and wine to his 12 apostles in one of the scenes. In the scenes about Constantinople, which was the capital of Byzantium and are dated to the 11th century, there is an altar with the emperor and bishops around it. There are pictures of four Torah prophets on the arches,” she added.

As for the wall paintings unearthed during the works, Sezgin said, “During the conservation work carried out at the St. Nicholas Memorial Museum, we found scenes of Pantocrator Jesus - Lord of the Universe unearthed under the limestone layer. The other findings were scenes with various Christian cross symbols, dated back to the 19th century.”