Gallery: Restoration work breathes new life into medieval interior artwork ({{commentsTotal}})

Restoration of a church in Estonia have brought new life to interior paintings from the later middle ages, according to a report on ETV current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera.

The interior decorations at Koeru Church in the village of Järve-Jaani, about 100 kilometers southeast of Tallinn, which date from the 13th to 15th centuries, were rediscovered by art historian Villem Raam eight years ago, and the process of restoring them was begun, enlisting the help of students from the Estonian Art Academy's (EKA) department of heritage conservation.

Professor Hilkka Hiop of the EKA said that in general Estonian churches in the middle ages were much more colorful than nowadays, but the Koeru church is unusual in that respect, and that the work had yielded more examples than were first thought present.

"It is, of course, rare that we have such a powerful second example. This summer we did some more research and now we know that these paintings are as well preserved in all the vaults," Hiop told AK.

However, that Estonian churches, as in much of northern Europe, were quite literally whitewashed inside during and after the protestant reformation is something of a myth, according to Anneli Randla, Head of the the EKA's heritage conservation department.

"It is certainly a myth that during the Reformation, everything was immediately painted white. Even after the Reformation, Estonian churches were very, very colorful, even the Lutheran churches;" she said, noting the practice of internal decoration continued through to the 19th century, but gradually fizzled out due to a lack of funds.

As a colonial low German outpost, much of the territory of present-day Estonia saw a wholesale conversion to Lutheranism from the 16th century, though orthodox churches also existed, including established communities of Old Believers on the western shore of Lake Peipus, who fled persecution in Russia the following century.

Editor: Andrew Whyte



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