These eight churches are outstanding examples of a range of architectural solutions from different periods and areas. They show the variety of designs and craftsmanship adopted in these narrow, high, timber constructions with their characteristic tall, slim clock towers at the western end of the building, either single- or double-roofed and covered by shingles. As such, they are a particular vernacular expression of the cultural landscape of this mountainous area of northern Romania.
Wooden Churches of Maramures
© Andrea Albertino
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (iv): The Maramures wooden churches are outstanding examples of vernacular religious wooden architecture resulting from the interchange of Orthodox religious traditions with Gothic influences in a specific vernacular interpretation of timber construction traditions, showing a high level of artistic maturity and craft skills.
The Maramureş churches are outstanding examples of vernacular religious wooden architecture resulting from the interchange of Orthodox religious traditions with Gothic influences in a specific vernacular interpretation of timber construction traditions, showing a high level of artistic maturity and craft skills.
The region of Maramureş, situated in the north of Transylvania, was formed over time by the fusion of very old geographical and socio-political entities called 'countries'. These 'countries' are united by their geographical environment, composed of mountains once covered by forests and numerous rivers, but also by their history and spiritual life. In the Middle Ages, the rural social structures were founded on community-type villages grouped in each valley, under the general leadership of the Voivodship of Maramureş. The churches of the region were placed under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox monastery of Peri.
The eight churches of Maramureş are monuments based on traditional timber architecture, and stand on bases of stone blocks and pebble fillings. They are:
The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple (Bârsana), built in 1720, became a parish church in 1806. A two-level portico, connected by a staircase, was added to the western facade. Because of its plan, the church belongs to the tradition of the Maramureş region, but differs in its smaller size.
The Church of Saint Nicholas (Budeşti) was built in 1643 on the site of a 15th-century church. It is also distinguished by its size and the four pinnacles at the base of the spire, which indicates a link with the neighbouring region of Lapus.
The Church of the Holy Paraskeva, built in 1770, reflects the artistic maturity of its builders. The external architectural elements are highlighted by decorative motifs incised or cut in the wood to create a homogeneous and valuable ensemble.
The Church of the Nativity of the Virgin replaced the one destroyed by the Tatars in 1717. The structure of the inner space, especially the vaults over the naos and narthex, reveals the ingenuity of the builders. The wooden churches of Maramureş usually formed a complex with a cemetery.
The Church of the Holy Archangels (Plopiş) situated in the 'country' of Chioar, shows certain analogies with the church in Şurdeşti, such as the flat roof slightly lowered over the sanctuary, the slender bell tower with four corner pinnacles, and certain elements of the sculpted decor outside. The decoration, painted in 1811 by Stefan, a native of the village, is preserved on the vaults.
The Church of the Holy Parasceve (Poienile Izei) is one of the oldest of the wooden churches of Maramureş (1604), and reveals two phases in the development of such buildings. The first can be seen in the lower part of the walls with a sanctuary based on a square plan, a typical feature of the oldest wooden buildings. In the 18th century, the walls were raised, the naos was covered by a semi-circular vault, and the interior was decorated with paintings. The portico was added during the first half of the 19th century.
The Church of the Holy Archangels (Rogoz), built in 1663, was moved from Suciu in Sus to Rogoz in 1883. It is characterized by a recessed heptagonal sanctuary, a polygonal pronaos, a southern entrance, and a large asymmetrical roof. It is also distinctive for its profusion of decorative sculpture.
The Church of the Holy Archangels (Şurdeşti), built in 1767, synthesises all the features of the wooden churches of Maramureş at the height of their development with, in particular, a double canopy and superposed windows. The two-level portico and its tall bell tower date to the 19th century. In 1783, three shared the task of decorating the inside of the church. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The region of Maramures, situated in the north of Transylvania, was formed over time by the fusion of very old geographic and socio-political entities called "countries," including those of Maramures, Chioar, and Lapus where the churches nominated for inscription on the World Heritage List are located. These "countries" are united by their geographic environment, composed of mountains once covered by forests and numerous rivers, but also by their history and spiritual life.
In the Middle Ages, the rural social structures were founded on community-type villages grouped in each valley, under the general leadership of the voivode of Maramures. The churches of the region were placed under the jurisdiction of the Orthodox monastery of Peri. The region of Maramures, known by the name of terra Maramoroisiensi (1324) and districtus Maramoroisiensi (1326), enjoyed a certain degree of political autonomy before coming under the authority of the Hungarian sovereigns.
It became a comitat (county) in 1385 and was then incorporated into the Principality of Transylvania (1538), which was annexed by the Hapsburgs in 1711. The period between the end of the 17th century and that of the 18th century was particularly rich in political and cultural events for Maramures, where Byzantine traditions intermingled with Western contributions (Uniate Church, Reformation, and Counter- Reformation). Most of the wooden churches of the region were rebuilt after the destruction caused by the last great Tatar invasions in 1717. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation