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Saturday Art: The Discovery of St. George and the Dragon on the Walls of an Ancient Church in Wales

I’m a sucker for a treasure story.

It’s unbelievable what was found under the lime-wash on the walls in the ancient church of St. Cadoc in Southern Wales, the church architect notice a line of red paint and on further investigation and then elbow grease, St. George and the Dragon appeared. It’s stunning. I suppose it was covered over during Henry VIII’s Reformation. Although redistributing the wealth the Catholic Church amassed in its monopoly over the people fueled imo the renaissance of the Elizabethan Age, so many works of art like this were destroyed wantonly (and in the name of God), not to mention the unknowable loss of information and art on the pages of the ages in illuminated manuscripts burned to ash.

Conservation experts have spent several years restoring images at St Cadoc’s Church in Llancarfan in southern Wales. These paintings, which date from the 1480s or 1490s, include possibly the largest and best preserved image in the Great Britain of “St George and the Dragon” and four depictions of the Seven Deadly Sins – lust, sloth, pride and avarice. There is also a slightly later image, which Dr. Madeleine Gray of the University of South Wales describes as an “incredibly vivid and gruesome painting of a fashionably dressed young man being dragged away into the graveyard by this hideous death figure.”

The painting of the young man being pulled into the graveyard is macabre but clever as it uses the building itself to give to bring it to life (as it were).

The restoration has been a tedious task, at times taking an hour to uncover a square inch of the old wall, but oh is it worth it. Also being restored is intricate “magnificent” oversized 15th century altar screen probably secreted there in Llancarfan to prevent its destruction, but that’s a guess.

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