Monday, April 23, 2007

ITALIAN-STYLE FRESCOES in the hills of N.C.

Note: Today I met Joe Shelton from Greensboro, NC. Joe is known as the "Dulcimer Doctor" and I had taken my dulcimer to him for adjusting in preparation for my week's stay in the NC hills to try to learn to play the instrument. I was amazed to learn that he is a friend of Ben Long, the artist that I portray in this blog entry, and actually posed for the fresco "The Last Supper". He is the 2nd man from the right with his back to the viewer. What an amazing coincidence...since I had planned to post this entry today !
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My interest and enjoyment of frescoes was greatly heightened by my trip to Italy in 2001. When I arrived home to North Carolina, I found, to my surprise and delight, that I had frescoes practically in my back yard.

It seems that a North Carolina artist by the name of Ben Long had apprenticed in Italy to learn the art of true fresco. He became an international master of the technique and was anxious to introduce it in this country. When an artist friend introduced him to the Rev. Hodge of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in the small community of West Jefferson, NC, he offered to paint a fresco in the church as a gift.

That was in the early 70’s and it was the beginning of an amazing venture. St. Mary’s congregation is known as “The Parish of the Holy Communion” and today it includes both St. Mary’s and another small historic church just 12 miles away in Glendale Springs, called Holy Trinity.

At the time that Ben Long painted his first frescoes at St. Mary’s, however, the two churches were not united. The Holy Trinity church was in disrepair and had been closed since 1946. Rev. Hodge started a campaign to restore the old church and renovations began in 1980. It was at this time that Ben painted the fresco “The Lord’s Supper” behind the altar at Holy Trinity and it became the crowning glory of the restoration.

In 2002 three friends and I made the trip to the mountains of North Carolina in search of the two small churches. They are located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for “prayer and meditation”. Docents are church members and are usually in attendance during daylight hours. There is no admission charge but a donation is appreciated.

It was exciting to see frescoes in such good condition. So many of the ones in Italy are faded or chipped. Ben Long certainly was a master of the technique and his frescoes have brought a bit of notoriety to the area. And the little church that was closed for so many years is alive and thriving.

9 Comments:

Blogger kenju said...

What an interesting post, Ginnie. I remember reading in our local paper about Ben Long, when he was painting the frescoes in the church. I would love to see them some day.

8:43 PM  
Blogger Suzy said...

Ginnie, I know I should comment on the frescoes, but what I really want to know is, are you going to a dulcimer camp? I have long dreamed of going to the Augusta Heritage Center in Wes Virginia, and I pore over the ads in Sing Out magazine for guitar camps. I hope you will write about it!

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Claude said...

I like coincidences and they make for great posts, like this one. You'll tell us about the dulcimer camp, won't you? ;)

1:02 AM  
Blogger Cazzie!!! said...

Thank you sooo much, I loved this post. Your stories never cease to excite me and I learn so much too.
I don;t know if you saw the frescoes that I posted back a few months when I spoke of our Returned Veterans Monument in Melbourne? They are also great to see up close. I guess images just do not compare to seeing things for real.

http://idontdomornings.blogspot.com/2007/03/friday-history-lesson-number-3.html

1:14 AM  
Blogger Pam said...

I have never seen a Fresco except for in books, you are very fortunate. As for Joe Shelton and Ben Long, it is an amazing coincidence and interesting.

Can't wait to hear how you make out learning the dulcimer, I think you're going to love it and do very well.

Re: your comment on my last post, thank you very much. And I have always thought you should make a book from your blog posts. Your life is facinating and your writing is excellent. It will be fun to see where our ideas and efforts take us!

3:36 AM  
Blogger KGMom said...

I agree frescoes are most interesting--especially the technique used to paint them on walls.
When you were in Italy--did you get to Assisi? We were there, but after the earthquake so the main chapel with the Giotto's was closed.

5:04 PM  
Blogger KGMom said...

Ginnie--sorry for asking whether you had been to Assisi--I do remember your wonderful blog on the subject of Sept. 11 and your being in Assisi when you heard the news.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

You have had such an interesting and full life, Ginnie. Hearing about you and your adventures gives me wanderlust. Thank you.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Terri said...

I'm not familiar with Ben Long, so really enjoyed all the info in this post. And that really was quite the coincidence!
Anxious to hear about that dulcimer camp.

6:22 AM  

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