Bulletin du Musée National de Varsovie — 42.2001

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1 cm
Bożena Mierzejewska

Remarks on Decoration
of the Western Wall of Narthex
in the Faras Cathedral

Almost forty years after their discovery the murals from the Faras cathedral
still present some difficulties in dating mainly on account of the restoration and
renovation done in the past, as well as of the fact that many of their stylistic
elements belong to the standard repertory of forms, which is typical
particularly of wall-painting in the regions distant from the main centres of
Christian art, to which category Nubian wall-painting belongs. Many of them
pose a lot of iconographical problems as well. Among these are the eldest
murals in the church, with a group of paintings on the western wali of the
narthex, executed on the first layer of mud plaster. According to Kazimierz
Michałowski who has laid the groundwork for the definition of various styles
of painting in the cathedral and the establishment of chronological frames for
each style, the earliest murals were painted at the beginning of the 8th cen tury.1
The whole group of these early paintings representing the so called “violet
style” was executed during the 8th and in the beginning of the 9th centuries.2
Taking as the foundation inscriptions of the cathedral two inscriptions dated

1 K. Michałowski, “Notę sur la chronologie des peintures murales a Faras”, Bulletin du Musee
National de Varsovie, IV, no. 2, 1963, p. 33; idem, “Die wichtigsten Entwicklungsetappen der
Wandmalerei in Faras”, in Christentum am Nil, Recklinghausen 1964, pp. 79-94; idem, Faras.
Wallpaintings in tke Collection oftke National Museum in Warsaw. The Chapter on Inscriptions
by Stefan Jakobielski, Warsaw 1974, p. 31.

2 About the styles of the Faras murals cf. K. Michałowski, Faras..., op.cit., pp. 28-41. Both
inscriptions were published by S. Jakobielski, “Two Coptic Foundation Stones from Faras”, in
Melanges offerts a Kazimierz Michałowski, Warsaw 1966, pp. 103-109 (Coptic text); idem,
“Grecka inskrypcja fundacyjna z katedry w Faras”, Rocznik Muzeum Narodowego w Warszawie,
X, 1966, pp. 99-106 (Greek text); J. Kubińska, Inscriptions grecąues chretiennes. Faras IV,
Warsaw 1974, pp. 14-23 (Greek and Coptic). In the recently published article Jacques van der
Vliet analysed once morę the text of the Coptic inscription and stated that the dates and
information gained from it could not be applied, without further ąualification, to the cathedral
discovered by Michałowski, so the latter building might be less firmly dated than this scholar
believed. Van der Vliet's statement has some important implications also for dating the earliest
paintings in this church, cf. J. van der Vliet, “The Church of the Twelve Apostles: The Earliest
Cathedral at Faras?”, Orientalia, 1999, 68, 1, pp. 84-97.

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