These depictions of John the Baptist are the earliest examples of medieval Christian art north of the Alps.
Researchers at Germany’s Augsburg Cathedral discovered that a series of murals adorning the cathedral walls are much older than they thought.
The images, which are time-worn and hard to make out, were revealed to be from the 11th century. At nearly 1,000 years-old, this makes them the oldest medieval Christian works of art ever to be found north of the Alps. Angelika Porst | Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Mural on the east wall of the south transept in Augsburg High Cathedral: Beheading of John the Baptist. According to a press release, researchers at the cathedral had known about these murals since the 1930s. They were discovered during renovations that removed layers of whitewash from the walls. Even as the images appeared from under the lime paint, the cathedral staff had assumed that the works were only a few centuries old.
It was not until the roof was renovated, in 2009, that the age of the murals came into question. In the attic, workers discovered paintings that dated back to the church’s construction.
The similarities between the styles of the painting and murals led the cathedral to bring in experts to date the art on the walls. This was the first time that the murals were professionally cleaned and studied. Angelika Porst | Maria Knackmuß | Bayerisches Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Drawing for the mural on the east wall of the south transept in Augsburg High Cathedral: beheading of John the Baptist. As reported in the German publication DW, there were at one time three murals, but one was destroyed during the 14th-century addition of a Gothic window. The remaining works depict scenes from the life of John the Baptist. One shows his execution, and the other shows his burial. It is suggested that the third mural would have depicted his birth and naming.
Of the identified artwork, cathedral official Armin Zürn said:
“The new findings … are proof of the magnificent design of this spiritual place over the centuries.” Read more here. Read more: Philippines church adorns ceiling with “Sistine-style” murals