DAMASCUS, SYRIA -- "Crusaders did not stay in one place for a long time, and so it very rare to find such paintings left behind by them," said Michel Makdisi, head of excavations at Syria's Directorate General of Antiquities. Very rare, but experts believe that two murals found during an excavation inside the medieval church at al-Marqab Citadel, in fact date back to the 12th century Crusades.
Al-Marqab, a fortress in Syria's eastern city of Tartous, is perched atop a hill overlooking the Mediterranean coast. In an ancient chapel inside the fortress, archaeologists spotted two 8 x 11.5" dirt-covered murals hanging on either side of an altar.
One of the murals depicts scenes of heaven, showing saints surrounded by light colors, while the other illustrates hell, with people being tortured and burned. Once restored, these ancient paintings could provide insight into the Christian knights who battled Muslims for control of the Holy Land so long ago. These are the first murals found in the Middle East to portray heaven and hell.