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The Burial Chamber Wall Paintings of Saint Nicholas Church at Demre (Myra) Following Their Restoration

Restoration and conservation work on the wall paintings of the burial chamber to the south of Saint Nicholas Church in Demre (Myra) was initiated in 2001 and completed in 2004. The work covered the restoration of five feast scenes on the niches on the north wall, fifteen scenes from the Life of Nicholas cycle painted on the walls as well as forty-five figures, either full or busts, of saints, bishops, martyrs and monks. Besides, the work revealed some new geometric and floral decoration.

After restoration, the iconographic features of the Dormition (Koimesis) and Resurrection (Anastasis) scenes of apocryphal origin and Nativity and Crucifixion scenes of Gospel origin have been clearly revealed. There are fifteen scenes from the life story of Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of the church, depicted on the upper walls of the south, west and north walls. After the restoration and conservation work, the iconographic and stylistic features of these scenes have also been clearly revealed. The following 15 scenes have been restored: Sea Story (I), Sea Story (II), Three Generals in Prison, Saint Nicolas Appears to the Emperor Constantine, Saint Nicholas Appears to Governor Ablabius, The Three Commanders Come before the Emperor Constantine, Three Generals Thank Saint Nicholas, Saint Nicholas saves Basileus from the Saracens, the Basileus's Father Thanks Saint Nicholas, Saint Nicholas Saves Demetrios from drowning, Saint Nicholas Helps a Childless Family (I-II), Saint Nicholas helps a person suffering from demonic possession, the Story of the Three Maidens (?) and a fragments of an unidentified scene.

Twenty-four of the forty-five figures have been newly discovered, thus unpublished. Most of the saints have survived with their inscriptions and most of them have their death dates in January, February, November and December.

Stylistically, parallels of these paintings can be found in the 12th century paintings in Cyprus under the influence of the capital. Consequently, it is thought that these paintings were executed by a group of local artists influenced by the capital.

*Yrd. Doç. Dr. Nilay Karakaya, Erciyes Üniversitesi, Fen-Edebiyat Fakültesi, Sanat Tarihi Bölümü, Kayseri.

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