Wooden churches of Maramureș

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Wooden Churches of Maramureș
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Church with two poale in Sârbi Josani, Maramureş. From circa 1684.
Type Cultural
Criteria iv
Reference 904
UNESCO region Europe
Inscription history
Inscription 1999 (23rd Session)

The Wooden Churches of Maramureș in the Maramureș region of northern Transylvania are a group of almost one hundred Orthodox churches, and occasionally Greek-Catholic ones, of different architectural solutions from different periods and areas. The Maramureș churches are high timber constructions with characteristic tall, slim bell towers at the western end of the building. They are a particular vernacular expression of the cultural landscape of this mountainous area of northern Romania.

Maramureș is one of the better-known regions of Romania, with autonomous traditions since the Middle Ages - but still not very much visited. Its well-preserved wooden villages and churches, its traditional lifestyle, and the local colourful dresses still in use make Maramureș as near to a living museum as can be found in Europe.

The wooden churches of the region that still stand were built starting from the 17th century all the way to 19th century. Some were erected on the place of older churches. They were a response to the prohibition against the erection of stone Orthodox churches by the Catholic Austro-Hungarian authorities. The churches are made of thick logs, some are quite small and dark inside but several of them have impressive measures. They are painted with rather "naïve" Biblical scenes, mostly by local painters. The most characteristic features are the tall tower above the entrance and the massive roof that seems to dwarf the main body of the church.

Eight were listed by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 1999, for their religious architecture and timber construction traditions. These are: Bârsana, Budești, Desești, Ieud, Plopiș, Poienile Izei, Rogoz, Șurdești.

The wooden churches who are listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site

Description[edit]

The historical Romanian region of Maramureș, partitioned between Romania and Sub-Carpathian Ukraine after the Second World War, is one of the places where traditional log building was not interrupted and where a rich heritage in wood survives. The tradition of building wooden churches in central and southern Maramureș can be traced from the beginning of the 16th century to the turn of the 18th century. Since the knowledge used to build the local wooden churches circulated throughout Europe, their understanding is of high interest far outside the region.

In Maramureș today almost 100 wooden churches still stand, about one third of their total two centuries ago. Besides the extant wooden churches, a major source of knowledge is still saved by a number of practicing senior carpenters with relevant knowledge and skills in traditional carpentry.

The portal from Sârbi Susani, 1639, Maramureș

From the Middle Ages until the turn of the 18th century the skills, knowledge and experience to build ample log structures with plane and well sealed walls, as well as with flush joints, were performances out of the ordinary. The craftsmen from Maramureș who were able to reach such levels were not simple peasants but well specialised church carpenters who inherited and maintained this advanced knowledge to exclusively build houses of worship.

Since the local tradition to erect wooden churches depended on those who built and used them, it is fundamental to identify the local builders and founders. The earlier blurred distinction between them veiled their separate roles in shaping the wooden churches and hindered us from a clear understanding of the results.

The extant wooden churches from Maramureș reveal the existence during the 17th and 18th centuries of at least two main family schools of church carpenters. There are further distinguishable three main itineraries and numerous smaller ones, indicating the work of some of the most important church carpenters ever active in the region and in some cases even shifts among generations. In general, the church carpenters stood for the technical performances, the high quality of the wood work and the artistic refinement.

In a long perspective, the true creators of the local wooden churches were actually the commissioning founders. Especially the role of the noble founders of Eastern Christian rite was decisive in the formation of a regional character among the local wooden churches. The wooden churches from Maramureș closely mirror the local society of modest country landlords, manifesting themselves along several centuries in their double condition of Eastern Christians and Western nobles.

The wooden churches from Maramureș open necessary connections with similar performances throughout Europe. Seemingly the local distinction made between sacred and profane rooms was characteristic for many other rural regions on the continent. The highest knowledge in log building seems to have had a sacred purpose with wide continental circulation and therefore in many places requires distinction from the more regionally rooted vernacular one.

(Source: Tracing a Sacred Building Tradition)

With the resurgence of church construction after the Romanian Revolution of 1989, there are new churches built in the traditional style.

Wooden churches[edit]

The list shows extant wooden churches in bold and also includes some known vanished ones. For those now in Ukraine, Romanian and Hungarian names of Ukrainian villages are given in (parentheses). In Romanian, Susani denotes "high-dwellers" and Josani "lower-dwellers". Thus the names distinguish the churches of those large villages which had more than one.

Cosău valley Mara valley Iza valley Vișeu valley Ukrainian side
  • Apșița (Voditsa in Ukrainian, Felso-Apsa-Apsicza in Hungarian)
  • Apșa de Mijloc, Susani (Sredneye Vodyanoye is Ukrainian, Kozep Apsa in Hungarian)
  • Apșa de Mijloc, Josani
  • Apșa din Jos, Părău (Nyzhnia Apsha/Dibrova is Ukrainian, Also-Apsa in Hungarian)
  • Danylovo (Dănilești in Romanian, Sofalva in Hungarian)
  • Dulovo (Duleni in Romanian, Dulfalva in Hungarian)
  • Ganychi (Gănești in Romanian, Ganya in Hungarian)
  • Kobyletska Poliana (Poiana Cobilei in Romanian and Gyergyanliget in Hungarian)
  • Kolodne (Darva in Romanian and Hungarian)
  • Krainykovo (Mihalka in Hungarian, formerly Steblivka between 1919-1938 and 1945-1946, Crăinicești in Romanian)
  • Neresnytsia (Nereșnița in Romanian, Also Neresznicze in Hungarian)
  • Nyzhnie Selyshche (Săliștea de Jos in Romanian, Also Szelistye in Hungarian)
  • Olexandrivka (Sândreni in Romanian, Sandorfalva in Hungarian)
  • Ruska Pole I (Domneștii Mari in Romanian, Urmezo in Hungarian)
  • Ruska Pole II (Domneștii Mici in Romanian)
  • Sokyrnytsia (Săclânța in Romanian, Szeklencze in Hungarian)
  • Steblivka (Duboșari in Romanian, Szaldobos in Hungarian)
  • Ternovo (Târnova in Romanian, Kokenyes in Hungarian)

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]