Romanesque wall paintings in Westphalia

Wall paintings of the late Romanesque period from 1160-1270 have been preserved in many churches in Westphalia. They show figurative scenes that, together with the decorative paintings (polychrome architectural decorations) that complement the architecture, characterise the church interiors. On their walls, particularly near to the altar, diverse religious pictorial worlds are opened up that as visual sermons had a decisive effect on the religious beliefs and therefore the world view of the people of that time. The manifold paintings range from representations of the enthroned Christ (Majestas Domini) via scenes showing the Judgment of the Nations, legends about the saints and New Testament topics to the moralising depiction of Fortune with the Wheel of Fate. However, the significance of the Romanesque wall paintings as essential contributions towards the Westphalian cultural heritage has so far not been appreciated.

This is probably a result of the reduced legibility of the representations often due to losses of paint layers so that they can hardly develop their former effect from a distance as a consequence of a changeful destiny of overpainting, exposure and restoration. Although the authority for the preservation of monuments itself, that is directly concerned with the often difficult conservation of the architecturally integrated paintings, has repeatedly made its observations and recordings during restoration work, the systematic scientific research into and presentation of the existing paintings, however, has so far had to take lower priority after the large number of other tasks necessary.

In order to change the situation, the LWL-Denkmalpflege, Landschafts- und Baukultur in Westfalen (LWL-Department for the preservation of historical monuments, heritage and landscape conservation and building culture) 2012 has begun a research project whereby figurative wall paintings in thirteen churches have been recorded, charted and examined from a scaffold. (Here you can call up the overview map (German version). A book publication, a touring exhibition, a film and this Internet appearance now outline the results of the project.

The contents presented on the basis of various media complement each other. They are intended to make the genre and its history known to the public and to convey to today’s observers the significance of the historical, religious visual worlds in an easily comprehensible manner.

Besides image galleries and summarising texts, the Internet appearance of the research project includes the complete mappings and photo documentations of the Romanesque wall paintings. Here the user can zoom in on the paintings and call up mappings of the chronology and the painting technique as supplementary information.

Via the navigation links you can call up the individual churches and their wall paintings.