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Smiling Virgin Mary Fresco at Cappadocia Monastery Puzzles Scientists

Smiling Virgin Monastery
The smiling Mary fresco. Credit: Public Domain

Scientists are debating if a fresco depicting a smiling Virgin Mary in the Gumusler Monastery in Turkey is original or the result of a restoration gone wrong.

Carved into a large rock mass in the Cappadocia region, the monastery is believed to have been constructed sometime during the Byzantine era between the 8th and 12th centuries.

The most important part of the monastery is the church in the northern part. It is thought that at least three different masters worked on all the church wall paintings.

The monastery is carved out of a large rock and is one of the best-preserved and largest of its kind in the Cappadocia region. Credit: Dosseman, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikipedia

In the main section, paintings of Jesus on the throne, two angels, symbols of apostles, the Virgin Mary, the Great Basileios of Kayseri, Gregorios of Nysa and Gregorios of Nazians can be seen.

Smiling Virgin Mary fresco: Restoration gone wrong?

But the monastery is best known for the Smiling Virgin Mary fresco, known to be the only one in Anatolia.

Speaking recently to state-run Anadolu Agency, Provincial Culture and Tourism Director Basri Akdemi said: “The Mary figure looks like she is looking at you from all directions.”

Akdemir noted that the wall paintings were restored by British archaeologist and restorer Michael Gough in the 1960s.

“The figure of Virgin Mary smiling most probably was a restoration mistake, but it is known like this in Turkey and abroad,” said Gough. “This place was restored three times.”

“We don’t have any information if Mother Mary was smiling before the restoration but such restoration mistakes have been made before,” he added.

Monastery main apse Christ enthroned. Credit: Dosseman, CC BY-SA 4.0/Wikipedia



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