The luminous, life-size Ben Long Frescoes created by world-famous fresco artist Benjamin F. Long IV are the focus of a trail that leads visitors through the North Carolina mountains and foothills to churches and public buildings adorned with the paintings.
An American Fresco Master
Long is one of few artists today to be recognized as a master of the art of fresco-painting on wet plaster, the process used by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Because the mixed pigments are absorbed by the plaster, the paintings actually become part of the wall.
After completing studies at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the Art Students League in New York, Long apprenticed in Florence, Italy, under Maestro Pietro Annigoni for nearly eight years before returning to his native North Carolina. He has completed more than a dozen frescoes paintings in the state, as well as his commissions in France and Italy.
Benjamin Long Fresco Trail
The Blue Ridge Frescoes are located along the Benjamin F. Long IV Fresco Trail. Within the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, there are nine frescoes at six locations:
- Mary Great with Child, John the Baptist, and Mystery of Faith, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, West Jefferson, NC.
- The Last Supper, Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, Glendale Springs, NC.
- Return of the Prodigal, Chapel of the Prodigal, Montreat College, Montreat, NC.
- Sacred Dance and the Muses, City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium, Morganton, NC.
- Suffer the Little Children, E.H. Sloop Chapel, Crossnore School, Crossnore, NC.
- St. Paul’s Conversion and St. Paul Writing His Epistles, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Wilkesboro, NC.
Other frescoes on the trail are located in Statesville and Charlotte, NC.
Long prefers to paint from life and uses local people as models for his frescoes. Today, he trains students in the artistic traditions of classical realism at his school, the Fine Arts League of the Carolinas.
Hours of Operation
Each site has individual hours. Visit their websites or call for details.
Donations are welcome at all sites.
Hours of operation and fees are subject to change. Contact directly for most current information.
Within the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, there are nine frescoes at six locations:
From Wilkesboro, take NC 16 North; turn left on NC 163, travel to the second traffic light and turn left on Beaver Creek School Road. Go approximately a half mile to the church.
From US 421 turn on NC 16 North and go approximately 18 miles. Church will be on the left. It is also accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 258.
Chapel of the Prodigal, Montreat College
Montreat, NC 28757
(828) 669-8012, ext. 3820
Take exit 64 off I-40, go north through Black Mountain into Montreat, turn right on Lookout Road. The chapel is on the right. Please call ahead to view the fresco.
City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium
401 S. College Street
Morganton, NC 28655
(828) 438-5294 or 800-939-7469
Take Exit 105 off I-40, turn north into Morganton. Go to sixth traffic light, turn left (a 45 degree angle) and travel four blocks. The Municipal Auditorium is on the right.
Take Exit 85 off I-40 at Marion, on US 221 North, travel approximately 30 miles to blinking light, turn left onto Crossnore Street. Travel a half mile, turn right onto Johnson Lane, then turn right onto Miracle in the Hills Drive. The chapel is on left at the top of the hill.
From Hwy. 421, take Exit 283 (Brushy Mountain Road), turn north (road becomes Oakwoods Rd.) and continue for 1.2 miles to first traffic light at NC 18/268. Turn left onto Main Street. Continue past old courthouse (now Wilkes Heritage Museum), go one block and turn right on Cowles Street and continue up the hill. The church is at the top of the hill on the right. The frescoes are in the Commons between the old chapel and the new sanctuary.