Early Medieval Paintings and Other Decorated Surfaces
In the Chapel of the Medical Saints surfaces with decorations belonging to three historical phases are preserved.
The light coloured wall plaster present on the higher portions of the walls belongs, most probably, to the decoration of the room dating back to Domitian’s (81-96 A.D.) period.
Remains of the large squared decorations are portions of a red band which also indicate the existence of an horizontal stucco moulding.
In fact, numerous square holes, placed along three horizontal lines at regular intervals, are present on the brick surfaces.
Metal holding pins were placed in these holes in order to fix the marble slabs to the wall.
The early medieval wall paintings represent the Medical Saints.
Their names are indicated with Greek inscriptions: Cosmas, Damian, Abba Cyrus, Panteleimon etc.
At the center of the wall there is a portrait without any inscription. This portrait, identified as Christ Pantocrator, is dressed with a red tunic and has long curly hair and a thick beard.
The paintings on the walls and that in the niche are painted by different artists, even if the analogies in the painted inscriptions suggest a similar dating.
The VIII century painters used the fresco technique: the pigments mixed only with water or highly diluted lime, were applied while the plaster was still damp.
The plaster is composed of lime and grounded hay of which many impressions are visible on the surface.
The use of hay and the near total absence of sand is typical of traditional Byzantine wall plaster and seems to strengthen the hypothesis of many scholars who claim that the artists were oriental.
There is speculation that female sex Medical Saints were represented here.
A consecration cross, painted on layer of diluted lime plaster applied to the brick wall surface and on the lower part of John VII’s velum, indicates that the use of the chapel most probably continued after the church’s abandonment following the earthquake of 847.
Other evidences belonging to this period are the leaf crown and the remains of probably Greek inscriptions on the light coloured wall plaster on the higher portion of the long wall.