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 by a joint Syrian-Hungarian team excavating an old Crusader fortress on a hilltop overlooking the Mediterranean in the eastern city of Tartous.
The murals, which measure about 8 feet high and 11.5 feet 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.
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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.
Hassan said the Crusader murals were important because they were the first ones found in the Middle East depicting heaven and hell.
Authorities have restricted access to the paintings while archaeologists finish their excavation