Archaeologists have discovered two Crusader-era murals depicting heaven and hell in a medieval church on Syria’s coast — a rare find that could reveal new information about the Christian knights who battled Muslims for control of the Holy Land hundreds of years ago.
Experts are now renovating the 12th century paintings, which were discovered last year in an old Crusader fortress on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean in the eastern city of Tartous.
The murals, which measure about 8 feet (2.5 meters) high and 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) wide, were hanging on either side of the altar of a 12th century chapel inside the al-Marqab Citadel and had accumulated thick layers of dust and dirt, archaeologists said.
The panel depicting hell shows people being tortured inside a wheel covered with knives and others being hanged and burnt, said Marwan Hassan, head of the Department of Antiquities in Tartous. The one portraying heaven includes saints surrounded by light colors.
The murals are significant because they are the first ones found in the Middle East to depict heaven and hell.
“Crusaders did not stay in one place for a long time, and so it very rare to find such paintings left behind by them,” Michel Makdisi, head of excavations at Syria’s Directorate General of Antiquities, told The Associated Press.