North Carolina December 27, 2017
The Little-Known Church Hiding In North Carolina That Is An Absolute Work Of Art
Tucked deep within the rolling hills of Ashe County, two quiet and simple Episcopal churches house marvelous works of art. North Carolina native, Ben Long, ventured to West Jefferson in 1974 and painted amazing frescoes in two local churches. Today, the endearing work by Long has made the ‘Church of the Frescoes’ one of West Jefferson’s most popular tourist destinations.
The work of world-renowned artist Ben Long can be viewed in St. Mary's Episcopal Church in West Jefferson.
The three frescoes housed inside are part of the Blue Ridge Fresco Trail and include, "Mary, Great with Child," "John the Baptist," and "The Mystery of Faith."
Fresco is a technique of mural painting.
Some of the world's most famous paintings are frescoes, like The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo. The skill is hard to master, which is why renowned fresco artists apprentice before really painting. The style involves painting upon freshly-laid or wet lime plaster with water as the means to merge the pigment with the plaster.
Long spent four years in Italy apprenticing in the art of fresco painting.
But first he served in Vietnam as a Marine Corps Combat Officer and Commander of the Combat Art Team. While Long was a lifelong artist, his training in Florence propelled his art to a professional level. Yet, when returning back to the states he realized there wasn't such a need for large-scale, lifelike murals.
But that didn't stop Long from getting his work out there.
He returned to his hometown of West Jefferson and after a serendipitous meeting with a local episcopal minister, he offered to 'gift' the two small churches with his talent. It's said the minister agreed without even knowing what a Fresco was.
Long stayed true to the traditional Italian method.
He used locals as models for his 'Last Supper' fresco and painted in the traditional style of paint on wet plaster. Today, both Holy Trinity in Glendale Springs and St. Mary's in West Jefferson house Long's magnificent, lifelike work.
Visitors range from whole busloads to solo travelers.
Theres a guestbook in each sanctuary where people pen out their time spent in these beautiful churches among stunning works of art. For many, it's more than viewing artwork - it's a religious experience. For others, it's simply fascinating that world-famous frescoes are hiding in small town North Carolina down a long country road. The Blue Ridge Fresco Trail includes other works by Long, and his work also appears in the Smithsonian and in Italy at the Abbey of Montecassino. He also has 11 frescoes throughout the U.S. For those wanting to visit, both churches are open year-round with no admission fee.
How amazing is that, it’s certainly one of those places pictures do no justice and you just need to see it for yourself. Have you ever visited?
For more information or directions –
Speaking of art – for a totally unique experience visit the
Chinese Lantern Festival in Cary