The wooden churches of Maramureş are a group of Orthodox churches, eight of which were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Built in different periods, but maintaining an architectural unity, the Maramureş churches are timber constructions with tall steeples, shingled roofs and large porches. They are true masterpieces of the European architecture, and have a religious, historical and artistic value.
The wooden churches were built in two distinctive stages: the first one between 1350 and 1450, and the second one between 1700 and 1750. They are built from thick oak, fir or holm-tree logs, ingeniously conjoined. The traditional art of wood carving represents, in Maramureş, the main means of artistic expression. Therefore, the artistic value of the wooden churches consists of the subtle harmony between the construction’s component parts.
Above the single or double roof, covered by shingles, each church presents tall Gothic-style steeples, which amplify the dimensions and perfect the exterior aspect of the edifice. The towers sometimes reach a height three times bigger than the church itself, as it is the case of the wooden church at Şurdeşti. Although the old wooden churches have a special air, the new ones are also built to impress. The new Bârsana Monastery, for example, with a 57m steeple, was for a short period of time the highest wooden church in the world. It was recently overtaken by the Peri Monastery in Săpânţa, which rises to a height of over 75m.
The decorative elements that adorn these churches are very vast, spanning from mythical representations and geometrical motifs, specific to the local popular creations. The interior painting offers symbolic Orthodox scenes, such as the Passions of Christ and miracles of the saints, but also vegetal symbols, manifestations of the forces of nature or local customs and traditions.
In December 1999, in the UNESCO World Heritage List were included the wooden churches from the following eight villages: Budești (Budești Josani church), Desești, Bârsana, Poienile Izei, Ieud (Ieud Deal church), Șurdești, Plopiș and Rogoz.
How to get there:
The wooden churches are situated in the central part of the Maramureş region.
They are easily accessible by car from Baia Mare.