Volume 3 No.3 July 1999
Two Sacred Art Masterpieces Restored
The repainted picture of Saint Stephen in the Church of Our Lady in Diman, Lebanon. Photo by MARI (Lebanon, 1999)
The repainted picture of Saint Marina in the Church of Our Lady in Diman, Lebanon. Photo by MARI (Lebanon, 1999)
It is a great joy to inform our readers that the murals of Saint Marina and Saint Stephen in Our Lady of Diman Church -- the summer residence of the Maronite Patriarch -- have been repainted as promised by His Beatitude.
In our editorial, "A Disappearing Legacy That Needs Your Help" (Volume 2, Number 3 - July 1998), we reported that two murals originally painted by the renowned artist Saliba Duwaihi had been scraped and removed because of irreparable damage caused by water leakage in the Church. We later wrote in our editorial, "Restoring the Two Murals of Duwaihi in Diman" (Volume 2, Number 4 - October 1998), that His Beatitude, Mar Nasrallah Peter Sfeir the Maronite Patriarch, promised to replace the two destroyed murals with reproductions that would be painted with extreme attention given to their permanency.
Completed in 1937, the two original masterpieces were oil paintings that had been executed by the artist directly on the calcic walls without any insulation material and without regard for proper mural painting techniques. It was thus impossible to prevent or revoke the water leakage damage that subsequently led to the complete destruction of the murals.
After interviewing several painters and religious art specialists, His Beatitude the Maronite Patriarch selected artist George Al-Zaatini to reproduce the two paintings. Mr. Al-Zaatini, who studied under Saliba Duwaihi, repainted the two murals on canvas as close to the originals as possible.
In June 1999, less that one year after His Beatitude's promise, the new paintings of Saint Marina and Saint Stephen were installed in Our Lady of Diman Church amidst an atmosphere of joy and thanksgiving. We extend our deep gratitude to Our Patriarch and to the residing bishop of Our Lady of Diman, His Excellency Bishop Francis Baissari, as well as to the artist Al-Zaatini and all others who assisted in the reproduction of the paintings. We pray for the restoration and preservation of all our endangered religious and secular art and antiquities. We also pray that our people in Lebanon and abroad will continue to feel true ownership of this invaluable cultural heritage and assist in protecting, preserving and promoting it.
Guita G. Hourani