The Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area inscribed on the World Heritage List consist of two Roman Catholic, three Protestant and three Greek Orthodox churches built between the 16th and 18th centuries. The property presents good examples of a rich local tradition of religious architecture, marked by the meeting of Latin and Byzantine cultures. The edifices exhibit some typological variations in their floor plans, interior spaces and external appearance due to their respective religious practices. They bear testimony to the development of major architectural and artistic trends during the period of construction and to their interpretation and adaptation to a specific geographical and cultural context. Interiors are decorated with paintings on the walls and ceilings and other works of art that enrich the cultural significance of the properties.
© Igor Supuka
Outstanding Universal Value
The wooden churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area, illustrate the coexistence of different religious faiths within a small territory of central Europe. The series of eight properties includes Roman Catholic, Protestant and Greek Orthodox churches that were built between the 16th and 18th centuries, most of them in quite isolated villages, using wood as the main material and traditional construction techniques. Within the framework of their common features, the churches exhibit some typological variations, in accordance with the correspondent faith, expressed in their plans, interior spaces and external appearance. The churches also bear testimony to the development of major architectural and artistic trends during the period of construction and its interpretation and adaptation to a specific geographical and cultural context. Interiors are decorated with wall and ceiling paintings and works of art that enrich the cultural significance of the properties.
Criterion (iii): The wooden churches offer an outstanding testimony to the traditional religious architecture of the north-western Carpathians region and to the inter-ethnic and inter-cultural character of a relatively small territory where Latin and Byzantine cultures have met and overlapped. The Lutheran churches serve as an exceptional example of religious tolerance in Upper Hungary during the period of bloody anti-Habsburgs rebellions and uprisings over the 17th century.
Criterion (iv): The wooden churches represent one of the best examples of European wooden religious architecture from the late Middle Ages to the end of 18th century. Their characteristic appearance, construction and at times rather naïve decoration derive from earlier local traditions, partially influenced by professional architectural concepts of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. Western (Latin) and eastern (Orthodox) building concepts are reflected in these wooden structures, creating specific religious architecture with diversified design, technical solutions and unique decorative expressions.
The buildings themselves, in their current settings, present a state of completeness that ensures the condition of integrity. In the framework of the particular characteristics of their construction materials and techniques, the buildings are well preserved and the authenticity of design and form, materials and techniques, uses and functions is ensured.
Legal protection is satisfactory since the properties enjoy maximum national and local levels of protection. The management structure and instruments are adequate, and the creation of a Management Group ensures the participation of all stakeholders.
The boundaries of the Eastern and Western Carpathians were in direct contact with two essential European religious and political cultures, Western Roman and Byzantine. The set of nominated properties illustrate the coexistence of different religious faiths within a relatively small territory in the mountainous area of the present Slovak Republic. Christianity was adopted in this area in the early Middle Ages. Once the Protestant Reform started to spread along Europe, complicated military, political and religious situations in the Habsburg's monarchy led the emperor Leopold I, in 1681, to admit some non-Catholic Christian churches into the then Upper Hungary. This permission was regulated by "Articles" (originating the common name of Articled churches) that established some restrictions; among them that there could be only two churches in each administrative unit and one in free royal, mining or border cities. Articled churches always had to be erected outside the city centres.
The Central and Eastern parts of the Carpathians mountains had also been reached by the influence of the Byzantine (and later Russian) Empire, what explains the presence of Greek Orthodox communities, related to specific Slavonic ethnicities. These communities built "tserkwas" or churches according to the Greek Orthodox tradition.
The nomination dossier provides information on the history of each building included in the serial nomination. The following paragraphs summarize the main historical information.
- Hervartov, Saint Francis Church
The earliest historical proof of existence of the Hervartov village is from the year 1340. The exact date when the wooden church was built is not known. According to the saved remains of the original Gothic altar, which was probably in place in the second half of the 15th century - the altars of St. Catherine, Virgin Mary and St. Barbara are from the years 1460-1480. This assumption is supported by the fact that the architecture and overall conception of the interior of Hervartov's wooden church, such as its stencilled geometric painting in the presbytery, may be associated to some extent with several churches on the Polish side of the Carpathian Mountains. - Trvdosin, All Saints Church
Tvrdosin (Twrdossin) already had a church and a rectory in 1395; however, the first written evidence of the existence of the independent rectory is two years later. This, however, does not certify the existence of the contemporary wooden church. The church was probably built as late as the second half of the 15th century, either by alteration of the older church, or as a new sacred building. From this period, there is a fairly well preserved part of the original Gothic altar, probably made for the new church. In 1559, partial subordination to the nearby manor, Orava Castle, is mentioned, as well as the church building serving rites by priests in both practices. The Reformation met favourable conditions in Tvrdosin, and the wooden church passed for a short time to Protestants.
- Kezmarok, the Articled Church
Kezmarok, as many other towns in the vicinity, became the centre of reformation in Upper Hungary from the first half of the 16th century. The people of the city had a special liking for reformation teachings thanks to numerous German relatives having many contacts in their motherland. It was Emericus Thokoly, native of Kezmarok, who headed the anti-Habsburgs uprising, that hastened the convocation of the Soprony's assembly in 1681 and permitted construction of new houses of God for the Protestant Church of the Ausburg confessions and reformed (so-called Helvetic) church. The first Articled Church was perhaps just a small house of worship built by protestant churchgoers from Kezmarok in 1687-88. As its space was insufficient for both German and Slovak communities and was obviously built as a temporary building, delegated burghers travelled to the north of Europe and raised money for its reconstruction. Only after Rakoczy's uprising and a partial easement of the anti-reformation tension in April 1717, the existing building was dismantled and a new, much bigger church was built. Works were the responsibility of master carpenter George Muttermann. Shortly, even in the same year, a new wooden rustic church, using high-quality yew and pinewood, was completed. As one of few buildings, the church was plastered on the exterior. The church was adjacent to an older walled inn that was used to serve as a sacristy.
- Lestiny, the Articled Church
It was the Zmeskals family who encouraged the people of Lestin village to become sympathisers of the Protestantism. At the time, Thurzos, the aristocratic family, were owners of the Orava castle, and almost all Orava belonged to votaries of reformation. The church was built by local carpenters in the years 1688-89 as a simple wooden rustic structure without tower and bells. The church was reconstructed in the 1770s, when the rustic exterior was covered with slab shuttering. In 1775, the churchgoers changed the damaged slabs of the internal shuttering and an unknown artist added a new decorative motif to an earlier ornamental nave painting of the end of 17th century.
- Hronsek, the Articled Church
Reformation in central Slovakia already had many sympathisers and devotees by the middle of 16th century. In particular, the influence of the neighbouring mining towns and the frequent contacts between German traders and craftsmen and local residents, helped them to disseminate and accept new reformation ideas. That is why it is unsurprising that by that time, Hronsek's aristocracy, and consequently their liege people as well, professed the Protestant's religion. Though the Soprony assembly permitted the construction of the new church in Hronsek in 1681, churchgoers continued to meet for worship at the Renaissance Rothov's manor house for a long time. The foundation stone for a new church was laid on 23 October 1725, at the time when the number of churchgoers had increased and the ecclesiastical community was better off. Worshippers built this church within a year and a day and already, on 31 October 1726, the church was solemnly consecrated. As a fairly exceptional wood-framed building in Slovakia, it shows evidence of foreign architectural influence. Master builders remained anonymous. Probably they were called to Hronsek by eminent aristocrats from the community. It is possible that they came from Germany where the use of wooden framed construction was wide spread.
- Bodruzal, St. Nicholas Church
The wooden St. Nicholas "tserkwa" (church) had already been built by worshippers in 1658 and in spite of the fact that in former times it was repaired on several occasions, it is one of the oldest and best-preserved churches of the Eastern rite in Slovakia.
- Ladomirova, St. Michael Archangel Church
St. Michael tserkwa (church) belongs to the so-called Lemkov's group of the eastern Carpathian wooden churches of the eastern rite (Greek Orthodox Church). The horizontal segmentation of the spacious nave reveals the conjunction of different geometric formations of roof level, a substantial height zoning and a Baroque form of a multi-staged roofing over a single room. This confirms the thesis that Lemkov's group did not create an independent form of east-Carpathian wooden churches, but that it is a particular variant of the Boykowsky's church, with considerable influence from western sacral building. Already in the year 1600, the existence was mentioned of a church and rectory in parish Ladomirova.
- Ruska Bystra, St. Nicholas Church
The wooden church in Ruska Bystra was built by worshippers in the first half of 18th century, in approximately 1720-1730. As it is considered to be the result of folk sacral civil engineering, there is no knowledge of an exact date of its origin or the name of the master builder or the master carpenter. During the canonical visit of Bishop Michael Emanuel Olsavsky from Mukacevo on 25th June 1750, the church was mentioned as "in a good condition". Source: Advisory Body Evaluation