Rough-hewn: wooden churches of Romania
Eye catching panel, lives of the saints

The eight World Heritage wooden churches in the west of Romania are far different from the east’s impressively painted churches (see that post here). The latter were Orthodox Christian built by royalty up to the 16th c. and laden with sophisticated, colorful frescoes. Hundreds of such wooden churches, by contrast, were built mostly in the 17th and 18th centuries by Protestant village communities of German stock. The descendants of emigrants from hundreds of years earlier fashioned the churches solely from the rough woods of the extensive local forests. On the interior walls, local artisans depicted similar Biblical stories and religious lessons, but in a charming folk art style. Here is some of what we saw. (Note that you can click on the images to enlarge them.)

Maramures church entry, Last Judgment

— In this typical motif near the church entrance, the Last Judgment sends people off to their eternal reward. Below, the road to hell (into the mouth of the beast) seems paved with good intentions, while above Muslims, Jews and other non-Christians are given an uncertain future.

Saints, God and crucifixion

— Under the curve of the chapel roof, saints – along with God – honor a simple depiction of the Crucifixion.

Maramures wooden church, Adam and Eve

— Usually, the churches include tales like the Garden of Eden and figures from the Old Testament like Elijah. Here floral trim surrounds Adam and Eve, just before and then after the epic moment.

Maramures church door with mystical emblems

— Mystical emblems and complex symbols are carved into the entry door of one church. The braided rope represented the connection between man and God, earth and heaven. Such a rope was often carved around the entire church.

UNESCO World Heritage wooden church, Barsana

— The UNESCO World Heritage church at Rogoz

UNESCO World Heritage wooden church, Rogoz

— The UNESCO World Heritage church at Barsana is typical of the construction and layout of these wooden churches, with overlapping roof structures. On the inside, an entry way precedes the main hall, which lies under the tower.

Entry hall

— Saints and prophets in one entry hall. Each figure is individualized on the wall.

Maramures Revelation

— Delicately painted symbols from Revelation on one church had a slightly different style but were hardly threatening or harsh.

Heritage of wisdom and piety

— The heritage of wisdom and piety depicted with a tree

Lives of the saints

— Eye-catching panels about the lives of the saints in a manner that reminded us of Chagall or modern symbolist paintings. Though the paintings are what you might call primitive, they do demonstrate some variety of style, like this one.

Panoply of saints honor Jesus and Mary

— A panoply of saints honor Jesus and Mary under the chapel roof.

(Also, for more pictures from Romania, CLICK HERE to view the slideshow at the end of the itinerary page.)

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