Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Mountain Treasure -- Church of the Fresco

Autumn is so beautiful -- and so fleeting.  Just last weekend we were out enjoying the colorful leaves and gorgeous mountain views; and now, this evening, the wind has whipped up and is blowing the leaves off the trees.  I'm not ready for them to be gone yet; fall is our favorite time of the year here at Forest Manor. Somehow, it always goes by much too fast.

I think that winter can be beautiful too, with the bare, lacy branches of the trees stretched across the sky.  But for now, I'm celebrating autumn, and I hope all the leaves won't get blown down just yet.

In the mountains of North Carolina, in the small town of Glendale Springs, stands this tiny wooden church.  Holy Episcopal Church was built in Glendale Springs in 1901, and is now called Holy Trinity Church of the Fresco.

It's a small church, and it looks rather unassuming from the outside.

 To a first-time visitor, I imagine it looks like many of the other mountain churches in our area.  But when you step inside the vestibule and look into the sanctuary, this is what you see...

Isn't this beautiful?  It was painted by North Carolina native, Ben Long, in 1980, after he apprenticed in Italy to learn the art of buon fresco.  Buon Fresco is the technique of painting on wet plaster, so the painting is a part of the wall, rather than on top of the wall.  The paints are made from ground-up rocks and minerals, and the colors don't fade over time.

At the time he did this painting, Long was assisted by twenty art students who traded their time and labor for the chance to learn this technique.  In addition, local residents from the area posed for the characters in the painting.  For visitors who've come to view the fresco, there is an audio tape playing which explains all the elements of the picture.

Obviously, this is Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper.  The figure on the left with his back to us and exiting the room is Judas Iscariot, going to collect his silver pieces for betraying Jesus. 

On a ledge in the left forefront of the picture are the remains of the meal which has just been eaten by Jesus and his disciples.

The disciple on the opposite side of the table and on Jesus' right (our left) is Simon Peter, the rock and foundation of the Christian Church.

The empty stool pictured in the center on this side of the table is meant for each of us, signifying that we are all invited to join in and break bread at the table of our Lord.  I love the symbolism of this.

The man on the opposite side of the table on Jesus' left and drinking from the goblet is the disciple John.  He and his brother James were called "Sons of Thunder" by Jesus.  John, the disciple most beloved by Jesus is one of the few disciples not to have been martyred, but lived to a great age and died from natural causes. The man at the far end of the table who appears to be looking out at us is the disciple Thomas, or Doubting Thomas.

In the right forefront of the painting is the pitcher, bowl of water, and towel used by Jesus to wash the feet of his disciples.  You can hear the audio presentation that we listened to in its entirety Here.  When you click on the link, just go to to the bottom of the page and click on Audio Presentation.  It takes about ten minutes to listen to, and explains more fully all the details in the picture and where each of the twelve disciples is seated at the table.

This flower arrangement sat underneath the altar at the front of the sanctuary.  I thought it was so beautiful.  I love that they used elements that would commonly be found outside at this time of the year; such as dried Hydrangea blossoms, colorful fall leaves, Bittersweet berries, and long leaf pine branches.  The colors and textures really stand out in the simple, pottery jug.

This painting of Moses with the tablets at Mt. Sinai was also done by an art student.  It hangs at the rear of the sanctuary.

In the basement of Holy Trinity is the Christ The King Chapel and Columbarium.  It also contains a fresco of Christ's Departure by Jeffrey Mims of Southern Pines, NC.  It depicts Jesus saying goodbye to his home and his mother, Mary, to begin his ministry.

More scenes in the tiny basement chapel...

I think this is the neatest columbarium I've ever seen; it looks like something that I imagine one would find in Jerusalem with the pottery urns and the rock ledges.

The basement chapel takes its name from this mosaic titled "Christ The King," which was donated to the church.

The church grounds are so pretty in the fall; to enter you walk through this wooden archway.

I love the shadows thrown by the tree in this picture...

The colors of the sky and the clouds were amazing that day.

Across the road from the church is a little bakery/cafe and a gift shop called The Green House.  The Green House sells all sorts of unique gifts, including hand made mountain dulcimers.

 Holy Trinity is part of the Parish of the Holy Communion, along with St. Mary's Episcopal Church.  St. Mary's, located in the mountain town of West Jefferson, NC, also contains frescoes painted by the artist, Ben Long.

According to the pamphlet in the vestibule of Holy Trinity, "During and since the completion of the frescoes in these two churches, thousands of visitors have made pilgrimages to our parish to see their beauty and to marvel at their wonder.  Many leave with a special blessing, peace in their hearts, and make the pilgrimage year after year."

You can see pictures of other pretty mountain churches Here and Here.

I'm joining the other folks for Seasonal Sundays, hosted by the Tablescaper.  This time of year everyone has so many great posts to share.  I'll also be participating in Mosaic Monday, hosted by Mary at Little Red House.  Hope to see you there, and as always, thank you kindly for reading my blog.



  1. What a beautiful church, and such gorgeous scenery. Thanks for sharing this treasure with us. xo

  2. You are so right such rich treasures. Great pictures of a lovely fall. Such beautiful frescoes and so moving. What a great trip for you and thank you for sharing these treasures with us. The frescoes and your commentary were so moving and made the scriptures come alive and inspire us. Such a beautiful arrangement under the altar- I love it.

    Hope the storm will not affect you.

  3. The artist that painted on the church wall is amazing, and the technique is one I've never heard of before. The white picket fence outside the church would have been enough to draw me to it.

  4. What a gorgeous church and very surprising with the magnificent paintings! I'll look online and see where this small town is...its sounds familiar! Enjoy your week!

  5. What a wonderful church to come upon during a country ride. The fresco is beautiful - the faces are so beautifully expressive. Thanks for sharing such a lovely place.

  6. Aren't the paintings beautiful!!?? What a wonderful church to visit. I would be in awe. This is the nicest thing about blogging....seeing all the beauty that people share. Thanks for the wonderful visit through your pics.

    1. Thanks, Kitty! I agree -- the paintings are amazing. It's been many years since we last visited the Church of the Fresco, and I always leave there feeling blessed.

  7. That is a beautiful fresco, full of so many images that tell Jesus' story. How lovely to find such beauty and art in a small country church. And I love that the basement is so full of art, too. Thanks for sharing.

  8. This is beautiful Denise! The fresco painting is wonderful, I can only imagine what it is to see it in person! We tell ourselves every year we are going to the NC mountains to see the leaves and scenery and life seems to get in the way. I look forward to fall every year. Our leaves are just showing the first bit of color but with the winds from Sandy, they are going to be stripped off the trees before they change completely.

  9. What an amazing church...the art is absolutely stunning! I just loved this tour of yours! :)

  10. Oh Denise, that is just beautiful! I loved the church from the first shot because I am very drawn to picturesque churches like that. I would much prefer a church that size to the big "first" church I attend. But then, we stepped inside for the tour, and WOW. This is just a feast for the eyes. I love the empty stool in the fresco for all of us.

  11. what an amazing treasure in this country church. Thank you for taking us there and showing us this artwork. Have a wonderful week. I am linking up to you through Mosaic Monday.

  12. What a lovely church, Denise - outside and in. Remarkably beautiful artwork. at first I thought you were going to say you had found the real-life inspiration for Jan Karon's book about the mountain church (which Fr. Tim helped to renew). Nevertheless, this story is very interesting. Thank you.



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