Wooden Churches of Maramureş

The historical Romanian region of Maramureş, 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 Maramureş 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 Maramureş today 42 wooden churches remain, 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. Some of them have been listed by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999, for their religious architecture and timber construction traditions.

The Church on the Hill at Ieud, dating from the 17th century, has murals by Alexandru Ponehalschi. In the attic were discovered the Ieud Codices, the oldest such codex in the Romanian language. Here there is a collection of icons painted on glass from the Nicula Monastery (the first center for painting on glass in Transylvania), precious books and documents, and carpets colored with vegetal dyes.

The Church of St. Nicholas in Budeşti was erected in 1643 on the site of a church dating from the 15th century. The church, constructed from thick beams resting on a stone foundation, was painted in luminous, harmonious colors by Alexandru Ponehalschi in 1762. Ponehalschi was one of the most prolific mural painters in Maramures. Unfortunately, the murals have been preserved intact only in the western part of the church.

The Church of the Blessed Parascheva in Poienile Izei dates from the 17th century. The nave of the church is rectangular in plan, the porch is situated on the western side, the roof has a double hem, and the steeple, with 3 bells, above the porch, presents an elongated helmet, above which is fixed a tall cross. The altar differs from that of the other churches in that it has 4 sides, as in antiquity. The murals, painted in 1794, are impressive for their eclectic style, combining traditional iconographic elements with others specific to the age.

The 17th century wooden Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Rogoz, a village situated on the banks of the Lăpuş, was constructed in 1633. The place of worship is one of the most interesting in all of Maramureş. The nave is rectangular; the narthex has apses, while the altar is hexagonal. The belfry is flanked by 4 turrets, placed at each corner. Beneath the eaves can be found numerous consoles, sculpted in the form of horses’ heads.

The Church of the Blessed Parascheva in Deseşti was erected in 1717. Its architecture is in the traditional style: the joinery, the equilibrium of forms and volumes, the harmony of the whole confer an impression of simplicity and elegance. Originality is lent to the monument by the beans of the upper part, supporting the sloping roof, which are elongated and sculpted into steps.

The Church of St. Nicholas in Bârsana offers you a typical example of Maramureş architecture. The church is remarkable for its small scale, rectangular plan, five-sided apse, belfry situated over the porch, and the double slope of the roof. The murals were painted in 1806 by two local artists, and the composition was influenced by baroque art.

The Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Plopiş was built at the end of the 18th century by Ioan Macarie and the murals were painted in 1811 by Ştefan of Siseşti. The originality of this church lies in the three-lobed ceiling vault of the nave, a case unique in the wooden churches in Maramureş.

The Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel in Şurdeşti, a village in the Cavnic River valley, was built in 1766 and the murals were painted in 1783 by Ştefan of Siseşti. It is thought to be the tallest religious wooden edifice in Europe, with a tower of 54 meters. The porch has 2 rows of arcades, one above the other. The iconostasis of the church is remarkable for its polychrome, gilded baroque wooden ornamentation, a true treasure of old Romanian art.

Travelers are recommended not to miss these monuments representative of the wooden architecture of Maramureş, veritable treasures of old Romanian art.