For all the years I’ve been coming to Warsaw, I’ve been drawn to the Faras Gallery at the National Museum, but visit after visit it has been under construction or closed. On Saturday afternoon I finally pass though the impressive doors into the centuries between the 7th and the 14th; a cathedral in the desert sands of Nubia; and the results of the pioneering archaeological work of Professor Kazimierz Michałowski and his team.
I’m greeted by a model of the excavated cathedral and a video that announces you can only see what you are about to see in Khartoum – and Warsaw. All the items on display were saved from the flooding of the Aswan Dam.
As I enter the first gallery I gasp with pleasure at the replicated arches and the line of paintings, often incomplete but completely satisfying, all created with tempera on mud plaster and preserved, many for more than a thousand years, in the desert heat. There is one niche with a facsimile and a note that the real item is on loan to the Louvre.
In the second room, obituaries, lintels, door posts, doorknockers and capitals are mainly sandstone. Designs include crosses, but also cobras and lotus.
If you’re interested in the details of the excavation and its history, have a look here. This collage gives you a taste of what you’ll see, as the paintings are uncovered, conserved on site, removed and transported.