|The painting before it was cleaned
However, we never expected to come across a beautiful Old Master painting in any of these rural, parish churches. Yet on the wall in Tunstall church is a huge painting by Francesco Montemezzano, a 16th century Italian artist.
The painting, Descent from the cross, is a depiction of the aftermath of the crucifixion. It has been hanging on the church wall for about 200 years but had become so filthy that it was hardly noticed. Certainly in recent years no-one thought it was valuable, or even particularly good. But then the painting was inspected by experts who agreed that it was indeed a Montemezzano, with an estimated value of over £100,000.
Boosted by this knowledge, the parish arranged for the painting to be expertly cleaned, restored and returned to its place next to the south door - occupying half the height of the wall.
And so it sits, not locked in a gallery or museum, but in a rural church tucked away in north Lancashire, where it can inspire worshippers in their devotion.
|Restored to its former glory, the huge painting now features bright, jewel colours