Faras Gallery is the only permanent exhibition in Europe featuring Medieval Nubian paintings from the Nile River Valley south of the First Cataract. The collection of over 60 paintings from the 8th to 14th centuries came from the cathedral in the city of Faras, a large urban centre in the Medieval kingdom of Nobadia, in present-day Sudan. Nobadian rulers controlling the Nile Valley from the first to the third cataracts converted to Christianity around 548 AD influenced by missionaries sent from Constantinople by the Empress Theodora. The first cathedral was erected in the 7th century, when the city was still known as Pachoras, and likely stood at the exact site where Polish archaeologists taking part in the Nubia Campaign discovered the subsequent 8th century cathedral.
The Nubia Campaign was an extensive international mission to preserve ancient legacies threatened by flooding from the imminent construction of the Aswan High Dam in Egypt and the resulting formation of the artificial reservoir, Lake Nasser. The paintings discovered by the Polish archaeological team working in Faras were executed on the plaster walls of the cathedral with tempera paint. After their discovery, they were painstakingly removed from the cathedral walls and since 1972 have been on display along with decorative architectural elements from the cathedral and churches and structures in Faras. Epitaphs of local clergymen and other priceless artefacts from the area, including ceramic pottery produced in local workshops, are also displayed.
In the gallery’s new layout, artefacts from the original church, erected in the 1st quarter of the 7th century at the site where the future cathedral would be built one hundred years later, will be on view in the first section of the exhibition space, near the entrance. This is also where a scale model of the cathedral will allow visitors to become familiar with the architecture and the topographical arrangement of the paintings residing in the museum’s collection. In a separate space, visitors will be able to watch a 3D film with digital reconstruction of the cathedral (FARAS 3D Project) and other films on the personage of Kazimierz Michałowski, the celebrated Polish archaeologist who discovered the Faras cathedral and created the Faras Gallery. The screening room will also offer further insight on Nubia – the cathedral, the wall paintings and their iconography, as well as the Polish excavation works in Faras.