This painting comes from the church of Sonqi Tino in Nubia (Sudan), a city that traditionally marks the border
between Upper Egypt and Sudan. Along with all the other paintings in the church, this was “torn” after UNESCO promoted the Save the Nubian Monuments Campaign (1960-1968), because they would have been submerged by the rising waters of Lake Nasser created by the new High Aswan Dam. The Italian Archaeological Mission of the University of Rome, La Sapienza, in participation with the Holy See, was involved in the excavation of the church of Sonqi Tino from 1967 through 1970. The painting entered into the Vatican Museums as a gesture of gratitude for its contribution in the rescue mission.
The subject of the painting is a very common theme in Nubian Christian painting: it is the story, as told in the Book of Daniel (Dan. 3.1-100), about three young men who were sentenced to death. A group of Hebrews had been deported to Babylon along with three young men, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, who refused to worship idols and were thus condemned to death. They were then saved by the intervention of an angel, which in Nubian paintings is represented by the Archangel
The paintings of the church of Sonqi Tino were made at the time of George II (ca. 940-990 AD), the son of Zechariah III who was the King of Makuria, a Christian kingdom that reached its apogee in the 10th Century. Graffiti and inscriptions in Greek, ancient Coptic and Nubian are found etched and painted on all the walls of the church (including some visible graffiti on this painting), demonstrating its continued visitation by the faithful and devotion to the Archangel Michael
State of Preservation:
The state of the fresco is really delicate. There is oxidation and aging of the varnishes, dust and dirt cover the overall surface. In some areas the color is detached. Touch-ups from the past have been identified on different areas. The whole surface needs to be fixed.
This project has been pledged by John & Paula Kelly, members of our chapter.
UPDATE: Restoration on this project is complete. We will be receiving a full description soon!