Lost Crusades Frescoes Uncovered in Jerusalem Hospital

Marie Paul Amédée de Piellat's recently-discovered Crusader-themed wall paintings at Saint-Louis Hospital, near the Old City of Jerusalem.
Marie Paul Amédée de Piellat's recently-discovered Crusader-themed wall paintings at Saint-Louis Hospital, near the Old City of Jerusalem.

The sisters of Saint-Louis Hospital, near the Old City of Jerusalem, recently uncovered lost 19th-century wall paintings of Crusader history that once decorated the entire facility, according to Artdaily.

Comte Marie Paul Amédée de Piellat founded the hospital, which was constructed in the Renaissance and Baroque style between 1879 and 1896. The French count was a devout Christian who considered himself a descendant of the Crusaders. Accordingly, he visited Jerusalem many times, and died there in 1925.

Mindful of the region’s history, De Piellat built his hospital on the site where the Norman king Tancred camped before the successful 1099 invasion of Jerusalem. The building is named after the French king and saint, Louis IX, who led the Seventh Crusade (1248–54).

Also an artist, De Piellat painted the hospital’s walls and ceilings with scenes of the Holy Wars and the heraldry, names and genealogies of important French families that participated in the Crusades, as well as detailed information about cities, and military and monastic orders of the era. The carefully detailed paintings are quite similar to the monumental church decorations so common during the 19th century, but draw on traditions more common in Medieval art.

Although the frescoes were covered over by the Turks during World War One, De Piellat did his best to restore his work, but it was largely forgotten until recently. Nuns reorganizing storage areas stumbled across some paintings, while a burst pipe revealed additional drawings hidden beneath layers of subsequently applied plaster and paint. Conservators from the Israel Antiquities Authority were called in to help stabilize the fragile images.

While the hospital remains committed to treating the sick and does not wish to become a tourist attraction, they are currently hoping to raise funds to restore and document the rediscovered artwork.


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