A 3-D reconstruction of the upper church at Banganarti. Built almost 1,000 years ago this medieval church was one of two that archaeologists excavated at the site.
Banganarti and Selib were located in Makuria, a medieval Nubian Christian kingdom that bordered Nobadia, to the north, and Alodia, to the south. Egypt at the time was controlled by the Mamluks.
In 2001 a research team led by Bogdan Zurawski, a researcher at the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Cultures of the Polish Academy of Sciences, began a program of excavation and conservation at the site; it continues to present day. This image was taken in 2004 and shows a team member excavating inside the church.
The team was struck by the beauty and detail of the medieval art they found. Here a team member shows a portrait of St. Damianos under candlelight.
An up-close view of the image of St. Damianos. He was a third-century doctor in Turkey who, along with his brother Cosmas, healed people for free. When the Roman emperor Diocletian decided to crack down on Christians the brothers were rounded up, tortured and executed.
The upper church at Banganarti contained 18 square rooms, organized around a nave. It was a place filled with art. As shown in this re-creation the central chapel has an image of a king (at far right) surrounded by holy figures.
A diagram showing the floor plan of the upper church.
Pilgrims visited Banganarti in the Middle Ages, often in search of holy healing. We know from the inscriptions left behind that the church was dedicated to archangel Raphael, a patron of the blind.
One of those pilgrims was a Muslim man whose name was written down as being Deif Ali, Arabic for "Ali the guest." An image of him was drawn in the western portico, which appears to show him as being blind.
Researchers were surprised to find a Catalonian inscription, only four words long, among the nearly 1,000 works of writing found at Banganarti. It was composed by a man named Bensec in the 13th or 14th century. Its location is highlighted in this image.
The inscription reads, "when Benesec came to pay homage to [archangel] Raphael." This dialect of Catalonian was used in southern France and northern Spain indicating that Benesec had gone on a journey of about 2,300 miles to visit Banganarti.
Most of the kings depicted at Banganarti, including this 12th century one holding what may be a reliquary (a container where sacred relics are kept),are anonymous, due to the lack of an inscription.
One painting of a king, which archaeologists can identify, is this 13th century image of King David, a Nubian ruler of Makuria. He is dressed in what appears to be a gold and brown robe. His epitaph was found nearby.
A detailed drawing, done by researchers, of the King David of Makuria painting.
This simple sketch shows King Paper, a ruler of Dongola, riding a horse. It's hard to make out in this image but he's actually lassoing another rider.
In this drawing from the Banganarti upper church, you can see King Paper has lassoed another rider. Little is known about Paper, though he is believed to have controlled territory around Dongola sometime in the late Middle Ages. Researchers think that this is a victory scene of sorts.
This image may depict a hegemone, a high-ranking official who served a secular role in Makuria, a Christian kingdom ruled by a dynasty of kings throughout the Middle Ages. Epitaphs of two of these officials were found in the church.
The team has worked hard at restoring the interior of the church. The murals were restored and protected and the church walls were rebuilt. The image of the Nubian King David can be seen here.
Researchers are working on a reconstruction of the upper church that will give visitors a sense of its shape and size. This digital image shows the sections that need to be completed. They hope to have it up by 2014.
An aerial image of Banganarti, showing prominently the reconstruction of the upper church.