St Teilo's Church

The Story of the Murals

How did we find the wall paintings?

In the early 1980s patches of colour were noticed showing through the plaster on the interior walls. These turned out to be amazing medieval wall paintings.

How old are they?

Several layers of wall paintings were discovered. The earliest date from about 1350 and the most recent from 1790.

How did we uncover the paintings?

Layers of limewash were scraped away using doctors’ scalpels. The paintings were layered one on top of another. To uncover the lower layers and oldest paintings, the top layers had to be destroyed. Examples of the oldest paintings are very rare in Wales, so it was decided to save these. Every layer was recorded and photographed.

Why did we move the wall paintings?

By the summer of 1984 the Church had no roof and was due to be dismantled. The wall paintings were carefully removed before this work started. The rewards were breathtaking: over 15 square metres of late medieval wall paintings were uncovered.

Who were the original artists?

Nobody knows; they could be the work of travelling or local artists. Perhaps they worked on commission for the church and monastic authorities, or were paid for by local church congregations. Some paintings were copied from woodcut prints, fashionable at the time.

This is an image of Christ in majesty, or as King of the earth. The Tudor roses on either side of the throne suggest that the painter was trying to link Henry Tudor's family to God and Jesus Christ. People believed that the King's power was God-given in Tudor times.

What sort of paint was used?

Artists used pigments made from natural minerals; these could range in colour from purple and red to yellow. Different shades were created by mixing these with white pigment (made from limewash) or a black pigment (made from soot or charcoal).

Sometimes more expensive pigments were used: a blue (made from the mineral lapis lazuli); a red (made from cinnabar); gold and silver leaf.

How did artists paint on the walls?

The design was traced onto the plaster and the walls were sprinkled with water before being painted. Artists used organic binding materials such as buttermilk, egg yolk or linseed oil to make the paint.