The walls of the monastery chapel at Mar Musa are very vivid after cleaning by Italian specialists. It is fortunate that dates (AH 450 = AD 1058, AH 488 = AD 1095, Greek 1504 = AD 1192,and AH 604 = AD 1208) were placed on several panels by the artists and monks.

The heart of any orthodox church is the Haikal with its altar and the decorated apse. The central image in the apse is of Mary, Blachernitissa (Virgin Mary with upraised hands [Orans] named after the famous icon in the Blachernae Monastery in Constantinople) with the infant Jesus seated on her lap. The figures read from left to right: St. Basilius, Saint Athanasius, Saint John Chrysostom, Mary and Christ, Saint Ignatius, and Saint Jacob (either Jacob of Nisibis or Jacob Baradaeus). Out of this image on the left side is Saint Cyril of Jeruslam. The identifications based upon McCullough cited in Dodd (2001:145-155) and the on-site reading by Edward Nano.

Another view of the haikal and apse paintings. This image was digitized from the slide taken by Professor David Hanlon (Art Dept. of SLCC-MC) on 25 May 2001.

Blachernitissa with her hands raised in praise is the central figure of the painted apse.

Closeup of the damaged face of the Christ child with the word Mesiha (Syriac, Messiah) written with white paint.

The name Mariam is written in white paint next to the image of her hand.

Early church father holding the New Testament and painted to the left of Mary, the Mother of God. Dodd (2001:Figure 21a based upon McCullough) identifies the figure as Saint John Chrysostom.

Early church father holding the New Testament and painted to the right of Mary, the Mother of God. Dodd (2001: Plate 23a based upon McCullough) identifies this as St. Ignatius of Antioch (1st century AD church father).

Closeup on the face of St. Igantius of Antioch.

Painting of St. Athanasius holding the New Testament. This figure is identified by Dodd (2001: Plate 20a based upon McCullough) and confirmed by Edward Nano.

Early Church father painted in the apse identified by Dodd (2001: Plate 18a based upon McCullough) as St. Cyril. In all likelihood this figure represents St. Cyril of Alexandria (5th century AD) who was crucial in the theological conflict with Nestorius. On the otherhand, it could be St. Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. AD 315 to 386) who was part of the Syriac Christian tradition. Betweem Saints Cyril and Athansius of Alexandria (ca 296 to 373) stands the figure of St. Basilius as read by McCullough and confirmed by Edward Nanoo. The name Basiliscus may refer to the Byzantine Emperor named Basilicus (AD 475 to 475) who affirmed the anit-Nestorian council at Ephesus, but condemned the Council of Chalcedon. The painting also includes a figure identified as St. Jacob. This could be the Church Father named Jacob of Nisibis (4th century AD) but I suspect that it is Jacob Baradaeus (ca. AD 500 - 578) who is a hero to the Syriac Orthodox Church for his role in saving the non-Chalcedonian church by ordaining 27 bishops and thousands of clergy.

The paintings within the haikal would have been largely obscured in antiquity from the worshippers in the nave by the iconostasis screen. The original screen was removed and used as firewood during the early 20th, but replaced by a new screen during the restoration of the monastery. This photograph is a digitized black and white image taken by Professor David Hanlon (Art Dept. at STLCC-MC) during 2001..

Arabic and Italian sign about the restoration and conservation of the wall paintings at Mar Musa.