Medieval Painted Decoration in St Michael’s Church in Mihkli, Estonia
Anneli Randla: Medieval painted decoration in St Michael’s
in Mihkli, Estonia
Keywords: medieval murals, church decoration, paint research, technical studies of art
Recent studies in the medieval St Michael’s Church in Mihkli, in western Estonia, have shown that the stone church was constructed in two stages: at first a simple building with wooden ceiling was erected, and at a later date (possibly around 1500) stone vaulting was added over the first chancel and the nave. In August 2013, preliminary investigations were undertaken to study the painted decoration of the inner walls and vaults of the church. The small sample areas uncovered were sufficient to reveal several historical colour schemes. The richest decoration
is contemporary with the first plastering of the vaults since the plaster was still moist when the paint was applied. The decoration is vernacular in character and its aim is to enhance the architectural features of the building. Thus the ribs and corbels of the vaults are painted but the decoration is extended to flat surfaces as well. For example painted pendants in grey and red adorn the ends of the ribs of the eight-partite vault of the chancel. The largest composition was discovered in the eastern bay of the nave around the vault boss. An irregular eight-petalled red flower is formed around the boss with a cross on it. These paintings might have been executed by local church builders rather than by professional craftsmen.
Anneli Randla earned her PhD in art history at the University of
Cambridge in 1999. She has worked for the National Heritage Board of Estonia for ten years. Since 2008 Randla has been an associate professor in the Department of Conservation at the Estonian Academy of Arts and currently she serves as the dean of the Faculty of Art and Culture at the academy. Her main research interests are: medieval ecclesiastical architecture, medieval murals, technical studies of art and the history of conservation.