Lot of green around, many hills and a church made completely of wood. You could think you’re in Norway, but no! You’re much more south: Maramures is a poor, agricultural region of Northern Romania, stretched between the mountains and the Ukrainian border.
Among the most interesting features of Maramures are the wooden churches. They were built centuries ago, when the ruling catholic Autro-Hungarian empire had forbidden the locals to build orthodox churches with more durable materials. Anyway, the use of wood proved to be successful in building long lasting and beautiful churches. And, more, churches are built on a hill in the centre of the village, so their size appears greater and impresses more the faithful and the tourist.
Almost 100 churches have survived in the entire region, and eight of them are listed in the Wooden Churches of Maramureș UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here is a list of the 5 wI liked the best during my visit.
The wooden church of Barsana was built in 1720 but was moved to its current location, on a nearby hill, almost one century later. The move was made because the villagers believed that the plague victims buried without a funeral on the new location of the church would only find their rest if the church was moved there.
In Barsana there is also a more recent, bigger and more touristic monastery. It was built in the last decade of 20th century. It’s also worth a visit but don’t mix up the two things!
The wooden monastery of Botiza isn’t old as the UNESCO listed wooden churches but is beautiful and stands in a spectacular location. It was built in 1991 and made of fir wood; the porch is decorated with the typical Maramures arches. It stands on a green hill, completely surrounded by a beautiful rural landscape.
Ieud is a village of 4.000, yet it hosts three wooden churches! The Upper Church of Ieud is the oldest one, and is listed in the Wooden Churches of Maramureș UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Made of fir tree wood, historians don’t agree on the date of its construction. The most cautious suggest the 17th century, others date it as far back as 1364 and deem it to be the oldest in Maramures.
The painting in the pronaos depict the Last Judgement, where the blaze of the inferno is about to engulf the sinners. In the attic of the church, an important discovery was made: the Codex of Ieud, a document dating from 1391, which is generally considered to be the oldest example of written Romanian.
- Poienile Izei
The Church of the Holy Paraskeva, built in 1632, was super elevated during the first half of the 18th century. The altar was painted in 1735. It’s one of the most beautiful and well preserved wooden churches of the region, and one of the eight buildings that make up the Wooden Churches of Maramureș UNESCO World Heritage Site. It features a double canopy and a bell tower erected above the narthex, harboring a bell room with open gallery and arcades resting on pillars, all covered by a high-pitched pyramid-shaped roof.
Church of the Holy Archangels, one of the eight buildings that make up the Wooden Churches of Maramureș UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Acknowledged as the tallest historical monument wooden church in the country, due to its 54-meter-high bell tower, the church combines all the features of wooden churches from Mararnures at the height of their development especially in terms of style and decorations.
It was built in 1721 after the last massive invasion of Tartars that ravaged the country and is made entirely of oak wood. No iron nails were used in its construction.
In 1783, three painters, including Stefan Zugravu from Sisesti (iconostasis and altar), shared the task of decorating the inside of the church. The two-level portico with double, scalloped arches and its tall bell tower date back to the 19th century. The framing “windows” of the door between the narthex and the naos were added in 1932.
The 54 metres high bell tower is recognized as the tallest wooden structure in the country
A beautiful iconostasis inside, organized in a pyramidal structure, its icons featuring golden backgrounds and richly sculpted frames.
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