Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Romania : Wooden Churches of Maramureş (1999)

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.

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.

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