Frisian and Scandinavian wallpaintings
The first medieval wallpainting in a church I saw, was of a red cross and a so-called Turkish knot, in the little church of Ginnum, in the north of Friesland. That was in 2007 and since then I’ve visited churches with wallpaintings in Friesland itself, but also when on holiday in Denmark, England, Sweden and Flanders.
It’s hard to explain what attracts me in these paintings, but it has tot do with the fact that they are some of the oldest expression in artform of the people that lived in Friesland or the whole of Nortwestern Europe almost a thousand years ago. More than archeological finds of decorated jewelry or pottery, wallpaintings in churches show us – just a tiny bit – of how the people back then saw the world. Not only how they depicted heaven and hell, but also what monsters they believed occupied far away parts of the world en these paintings also quite often show us the fashion of the day: even Biblical figures wore the latest fashion of that particular period the paintings were made.
Regarding this map: it's not complete. But it's marked (quite exactly) the spots of churches in En.gland, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. What's lacking is detailed information. I hope to add it along the way.
It shows us that not only Biblical stories and figures were depicted. A popular figure tob e found on church walls and ceilings seems to be saint Christopher, who carried baby Jesus across a river. This non-biblical myth is more than often used, which tells us something of the popularity of the story.
Friesland – I’m sorry to say – doesn’t have that many wallpaintings. Certainly, Britsum and Boarnwird are well worth a visit, but a lot has been destroyed by fanatic whitewashing during the reformation. Amazing paintings – in my opinion – can be found in the Swedish churches of Götene and Väversunda, but the most magical paintings of them all are without a dounbt the three churches on the Danish island of Møn. These churches probably show best what a medieval church must have looked like, with an overwhelming display of Biblical stories and people being whisked away to Hell on Judgement Day….
Frisian frescoes >>
Scandinavian frescoes >>
The Master of Elmelunde >>
Photograph: decoration in Boarnwird church (Frl.)
Lerche Trolle, Annette - Wall paintings in East Jutland, Arhus Amt Erhvervsafdelingen, Arhus
Scavenius, Annett - Elemelundemesteren i Fanefjord Kirke, Forlaget Vandkunsten, København (2010)
Zanten, Marieke van - Aldus is opgeschilderd, middeleeuwse muurschilderingen in Friese kerken 100 - 1600, REGIO Project Uitgevers/St. Alde Fryske Tsjerken Groningen/Leeuwarden (1999)