Monastery of St Vardishal

Monastery to St. Vardishal

A forlorn edifice once holy to the faith of Sarenrae, goddess of redemption and the sun, it stands as an empty ruin, a reminder of a brief era in which civilization tamed The Uwaga Highlands.

Most of the monastery’s walls remain intact, though a few of its towers have collapsed and gaping holes mar most of the structure’s ceilings. Most wooden structures have rotted away and nature has begun to intrude upon the monastery’s interior. Some of the old red and orange tile work remains intact, but where walls and ceilings have fallen the decoration has cracked and faded.

Bas-relief sculptures in the central courtyard reveal information on the building’s and the region’s past.

Northern Cloister

A sweeping bas-relief sculpture along the north wall depicts five bearded, larger-than-life humans riding the wind with triumph carved upon their faces. Though some of their arms and hands are missing, each is clearly meant to wield a distinctive weapon. One of the five warriors holds a large axe, while another holds a fragment of what must once have been a regal staff. In the distance, an ominous mountain looms over the quintet. East of the wall decoration, two open arches lead into small rooms off the north wall. The south wall is little more than a series of open arches that look out into an open-air courtyard.

Eastern Cloister

This lengthy wall bears a marred sculpture depicting the five figures from the north cloister mural in battle against numerous creatures of evil demeanor. Several of the creatures appear to be composed at least partly of fire, while others are much more difficult to define, being outright monsters of unknown origin or unusual warriors with weapons bonded into their flesh like organic tools. In the background Pale Mountain looms large, and over it two titanic figures lock in a deadly wrestler’s embrace. One has the demoniac visage of a noble efreeti, while the other is a gorgeous woman who could only be a djinni princess.

Southern Cloister

The southern wall bears a bas-relief sculpture in the form of a triptych. In the first scene, a heroic looking bearded figure takes leave of four similarly attired companions, who rise off into the heavens, leaving him to stand vigil over the large mountain in the background. The next scene depicts the bearded figure in battle with a flaming half man, half snake creature wielding a spear. The fire spirit transfixes the bearded hero with the spear, seemingly striking a killing blow. In the final scene, the hero appears twice—once on the ground with a wound in his back and once standing over this form, looking down upon it sadly.

Western Cloister

The outer wall of the west cloister passage bears a massive carving. The central figure—the heroic man with the pointed beard—preaches to a variety of human clerics from throughout the long history of the monastery. The first image depicts the figure manifesting in a spiritual manner to a small group of pilgrims of Sarenrae. Another shows the figure conversing with a man in religious finery while the monastery itself is being constructed in the background. Thereafter follows a procession of similar poses, each depicting a visit by the bearded man and the leader of each era of the temple. The depictions of these clerics often also bear an identifying inscription, complete with dates that span the last several hundred years. The most recent carving is from thirty years ago, and while ample room remains for additional carvings on the west wall, the last thirty feet or so are completely blank.

Shrine to St. Vardishal

The brightly painted walls of this small chapel, probably meant for personal prayer and reflection, stand out as unusually garish for the otherwise reserved architecture notable elsewhere in the monastery. On the walls, numerous rectangular wooden plates traced in gold filigree depict a strapping warrior battling creatures of fire, riding a chariot on the wind, and engaging in other acts of noble heroism. It is the same figure depicted elsewhere in the monastery, but the sheer number of images here suggest that this shrine was especially important to the clerics who honored him as a saint of Sarenrae. Perhaps a quarter of the gold plates have been pried away or hacked apart by long-absent vandals.

Monastery of St Vardishal

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