ST. Theresa's Church - Murals...

The magnificent wall murals at St. Theresa's Church, Thimbirigasyaya have to be seen to be believed. Four enormous murals crown this elegant place of worship. Completed in the early 1 960s, the vibrancy of the work remains to this day, untarnished by time. The colour is bold, vibrant, reinforcing the aura of splendour. This is rather extravagant work, but one cannot remain unawed by their sheer magnificence.

There is a strong eastern, and in particular Sri Lankan, vision behind the murals. In the large mural behind and above the main alter, St. Therese is shown in glory, attended by cherubs playing tambourines, dancing the "Leekeli" (a dance with wooden sticks) and blowing "Horanewas" (A wind instrument). Above this mural is another, depicting the presentation of the Rosary to Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Dominicans. The Virgin Mary in this mural, has very eastern features, as do many of the cherubs. However, the eastern overtones have not rid the murals of their inherent aesthetic value. .

Around the main body of the church are the fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary. These depict the life of Christ, from the Annunciation to the Resurrection. Similar medallions portray the Dominican Saints in the wings. The larger murals, those of St. Albert the Great and another portraying the Doctors of the Church are verysimple illustrations, full of colour and evocative. These small medallion like murals are beautifully painted and very neatly composed. The clarity of detail is striking.

The creator of this splendid work, Richard Don Gabriel, is one of Sri Lanka's most talented pioneering artists. He is the youngest founder member of the 43rd Group, the famed group of nine talented artists who gathered under the patronage of Lionel Wendt and were the pioneers of the Renaissance of Sri Lankan art. Others in this illustrious group included Geoft Beling, Aubrey Collette, Justin Deraniyagala, George Keyt and Ivan Peiris

Medallion like murals at Thimbirigasyaya Church .

Richard Gabriel has a strong Catholic background, and has used his considerable talent to communicate the depth of his faith. His religious paintings, murals and sculptures are many. A carving of the Risen Christ dominates the Jesuit Chapel in Bambalapitiya; an eight-and-half foot high Madonna carved for the National Seminary in Ampitiya, Kandy; murals for his parish church in Pannipitiya; basrelief Stations of the Cross at St. Theresa's and a book of teachings known as The Cross. Also at the Seminary in Ampitiya is a staggering 6 foot plaster crucifix which hangs as the finest of its kind in recent times.

St. Theresa is shown in glory, attended by cherub


These contradictory characteristics are even found in his murals at st. Theresa's. An almost primitive simplicity coupled with what must surely be the most vivid colours and sophisticated details and elegance found in any mural the world over.

His work is found in private collections allover the world Fighting Bulls, a painting in oils on canvas was acquired for the permanent collection of the Musee Palais in Paris in 1953. He has been awarded the rare honour of honorary membership in the Florentine Art Academy, L'Academia Florentia delia Arti del Disegno.

The murals at st. Theresa's are the most exuberant to adorn the walls of any Church in Sri Lanka. They are portrayals of an artist's faith and more. Gazing at the towering mural of st. Theresa's above the altar, one cannot but be amazed at one man's work. (Lanka explorer)


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