Medieval painting discovered at Oystermouth Castle in Wales

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Remnants of an ornate medieval painting dating back to the 14th century have been discovered at Oystermouth Castle, near the Welsh town of Swansea.

The surviving painting is thought to be over 700 years old and was spotted during conservation work in the historic attraction’s chapel area.

Exposure to the elements has taken its toll on the painting over time but experts from Cadw, the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly Government, suggests it’s a double-arched canopy that contains the figures of angels.

Some of the clear elements of the painting that remain include a wing with multiple feathers and circular shapes that form a head with yellow hair surrounded by a nimbus.

It’s thought the painting is both highly important and testimony to the original design of the chapel attributed to Alina de Breos in the early 14th century that once formed part of a larger work of art.

Swansea Council is behind the conservation of Oystermouth Castle for future generations to enjoy thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Welsh Government through Cadw and the European Regional Development Fund.

The Council has also contributed to the scheme and the Friends of Oystermouth Castle are actively supporting the delivery of the project.

Andrea Clenton, of Swansea Council, said: “This is an extremely rare and exciting discovery that the public will soon have the chance to see for the very first time.

“We were hopeful that we’d find something of historic importance during the first phase of the conservation scheme at the castle but this has really exceeded our expectations. I have to pay credit to the diligence of our contractor and their close attention to detail because they made the original discovery and referred it onto experts.

“Alina’s Chapel has been a hidden secret of Swansea’s rich history for far too long and we now have only just over a month until it’s available for people to discover for themselves.”

The first phase of conservation works at Oystermouth Castle is nearing completion in readiness for a public opening in mid July.

The scheme includes new visitor facilities, an educational space, improvements to access and a 30-foot high glass viewing platform and bridge that leads to Alina’s Chapel. The chapel marks the attraction’s highest architectural point and features a tracery window with views over Swansea Bay.

The castle currently welcomes about 5,000 visitors a year but the target is to attract many more by 2014.

Cllr Graham Thomas, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation and Tourism, said, “Discovering the remnants of such an historic wall painting after all these centuries is absolutely astounding and we’re confident the visitor experience at Oystermouth Castle will be first class when the attraction shortly re-opens to the public.

“We’re rightly very proud of Swansea’s heritage and the castle will add to what’s already a terrific offer for both city residents and tourists coming to the Swansea Bay area.”

See also Volunteers needed for Oystermouth Castle

Source: Swansea City Council

Sharan Newman