In Maramures, Romania, we can find some of the most interesting religious buildings in the world. The Maramures wooden churches have long gained their well-deserved fame both among experts and for the great audience of several countries in the world. They undoubtedly represent one of the art's peaks in the field of wooden buildings in Europe.
Many charters and other ancient signs have been preserved in these places. It is also here that the elders of the village used to gather and make decisions in troubled times. Also, people used to get married in these churches, and funerals were also performed, as well baptisms.
The wooden churches were usually built on high places, with apparently exaggeratedly high towers, provided with a turret where the bell was also placed. In the past, the turret also served as a watching point and in perilous times (attacks, fires), the bell was rung to warn the communities in a way or another, in order for people to take up measures against the uneasy situations.
The most ancient and valuable monuments of this kind are situated in the historical Maramures. Some of these buildings date back from the 14th century, but most of them were rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries. The material used in general for these monuments is oak, sessile and resinous wood.
Nonetheless, one can find such little post-Renaissance cathedrals in other parts of Maramures, such as Chioar, Codru and Lăpuş. Because of that, the whole administrative-territorial area of the Maramures County can be regarded as a major location for religious tourism. According to Grigore Man, there are certain characteristics of these wooden churches, such as: monumental buildings (in the historical Maramures), the spectacular towers and the beauty of the framing (in Chioar). In the area of Codru, the churches are smaller but perfectly proportioned, with extremely accurate interior adornments. In Tara Lapusului, churches have extremely beautiful hallways and functional porches.
Competent studies concerning these buildings point out the innovations and local solutions regarding the division of space: the shrine, the nave and the ante-temple placed on a east-west axis, to which an open hallway is sometimes attached, like in the case of wooden village houses. There also can be found decorative and painting elements.
The following eight wooden churches of the Maramures county have been introduced in the UNESCO World Heritage in December 1999: the wooden church in Budesti Josani; the wooden church in Barsana (see image); the wooden church in Desesti; the wooden church in Poienile Izei; the wooden church in Ieud Deal; the wooden church in Surdesti; the wooden church in Rogoz. Taken together, these 8 churches represent an assemble of remarkable examples of various architectural solutions from different regions and periods. They are narrow, but tall, with supple and long towers at the western part of the building. For these reasons, they are the expression of local particularities of the cultural landscape belonging to this mountainous area from northern Romania.
The wooden churches in Budeşti Josani, Deseşti, Bârsana, Poienile Izei and Ieud Deal are to be found in the historical Maramures, the ones from Surdesti and Plopis are part of the old Tara Chioarului, and the St. Archangels church in Rogoz is situated in Ţara Lăpuşului. They are special due to the technique of mixing different types of wood and shingle covers, due to the ornamental motifs visible on the surface of portals and frames-sustained by supple pillars-which symbolize plant, animal and geometric elements made by sculpting and engraving.
The churches' simple beauty seem to remind us of other times, when people used to lead a simpler life, closer to nature and far from the agitation, pollution and noisy city life. Especially these days, when people tend to build evermore impressive church buildings, which are not only expensive, but seem also colder and less welcoming. Not to mention that the ones that want to look modern and close to our present times, unfortunately so often seem to resemble money banks.