Painting the Temple of the Great Contemplation

The Remaking of the External Paintings of the Temple of the Great Contemplation at Merigar

On June 15th, 2023, the renovation works of the external paintings of the Merigar Gönpa began.
The original paintings, dating back to the first construction, had in part been ruined by time and the elements, in part made unusable as a result of the expansion works of the Gönpa itself, to which an outer ring was added in 2001. They had finally been removed during the extraordinary maintenance works of 2019-2020.

The exterior of the Gönpa in March 2020, without decoration, after the end of the extraordinary maintenance works.

The decorations were restored following the original designs commissioned by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. However, structural modifications have partly changed the profile, adding a ring that did not exist in the original version of the construction. For this new band we opted to add simple repeated symbols of the A and the Longsal symbol.

A page from Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s manuscript describing the decorations of the Gönpa, translated in the book ‘The Temple of Great Contemplation, the Gönpa of Merigar’, published by Shang Shung Publications

Before proceeding with the actual works, a study was made on the basis of previous experiences and the results that have taken place over time. External paintings on a wooden base are a difficult challenge in any context, however, when the weather conditions are particularly severe, as in the case of Merigar West, the undertaking is even more challenging.

Migmar Tsering thoroughly researched the project. The basis for a good result is obviously an accurate preparation of the surfaces. These were cleaned from the grouting which had receded over time, leaving rather deep grooves in various parts of the panels and pillars. A mixture of glue and wood sawdust was inserted in their place. All surfaces were then carefully sanded.

In addition to knowledge of pictorial techniques and the particular type of building, as well as the choice of the most suitable materials and paints, skilled hands are definitely needed for the work. What’s more they need to be able to follow and apply the master’s instructions.

At work!

A group of students from the Academies of Arts in Rome formed the nucleus of painters; they were joined by other practitioners who helped with the work and included Zhang Su, Gonpo, Shi Yin, Zhang Yue, Lulu Yushan, Andy, Mei Mei, Zhenya, Vitaly, Kriss, Mohan, Yangcen, Sangye, Anna Tomi, Sebastien, Rowan, Kamil, Magda, Emanuela, Kunga, Chan Lin, Anna, Tomi. This extraordinary team  went to the Gönpa early every morning and, with calm and concentration, devoted themselves to all aspects of the delicate work: the contours to be drawn; the preparation of the colors; the paints to be spread; the gold applications.

Going down to the Gönpa to snoop on how the work was progressing, it seemed as if nobody was there. Then, here is a boy in a corner, a couple of girls on a scaffolding, another on a ladder, one still standing in front of a pillar… in silence, with great calm, concentration, extreme care, immersed in the work that had been assigned to them. Every now and then a question, a concise and precise answer from Migmar, and off to work again.

At lunchtime, everyone heads to the Merigar canteen, or under the portico in good weather, for a well-deserved refreshment.

Gianni, helped by the Gakyil and the Geko of Merigar, prepared lunch for the workers every day. The painters were often joined by other Merigar workers, sometimes by participants in the courses and seminars scheduled from time to time, sometimes by unexpected and lucky visitors.

These young men and women are devoting part of their vacation time to this fantastic work of restoring the Gönpa paintings to their former glory, and the result is truly remarkable.

We are thinking of taking advantage of the favorable moment and the presence of many volunteers to also restore the floor of the Gönpa which, for the same reasons already mentioned, is not in the best conditions.

We will keep you informed on the progress of the works.

Everything is going very well; these works are part of the process of consolidation, restoration and decoration of the Gönpa, which began in 2003, is still continuing today and will proceed in the coming years with the updating of the lighting and audio systems.

This building is not only an extraordinary example of art and beauty for us, but it is a symbol of the Teachings that the Master has given us for years and a great inspiration for us, his students, and also for the hundreds of people who visit it every year, absorbing at least a little of the sacredness it emanates.

May our actions today benefit all practitioners and all beings!

You can support this project by sending a donation via:

bank transfer to
Merigar Dzogchen Community – Loc. Merigar, 58031 Arcidosso GR Italy
Bank: Intesa San Paolo Spa, Arcidosso Branch, GR.
c/c 3503
IT 35E0306972163100000003503
Reason: Restoration of the Gönpa of Merigar

Paypal click here or copy and paste this url:

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and look forward to seeing you to enjoy the beauty of our Gönpa as soon as the restoration work is completed.


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