Wooden churches are an incredible legacy of the past, definitely worth visiting. To make the decision easier let us introduce you to the hidden secrets of a particularly beautiful one: Sanmihaiu Almasului: Temple of Archangels Michael and Gabriel.
Definitely worth stopping if you are around!
All elements of a wooden church building are made of wood, but to protect it, nowadays a lightning rod often runs on it. The logs turn grey, this gives them a unique colour, detectable from the distance, especially in the middle of the green meadow, in warm summer days. The meticulously cut wooden tile elements wear out beautifully due to the rain and give the building a distinctive grey colour.
From the roof will rise one or two towers, pointed, narrow arch that is adorned with a cross. The porch of the tower can be reached in the rarest cases. It is there mainly for decorative purposes.
The incredibly humble exterior is due to the fact that these churches were built to serve small and often poor communities of shepherds, living scattered around the mountains.
Entering through the low vaulted door, we can see the interior divided into three parts. The first is the most spacious space, there is no element reminiscent of furniture, only tiny window gaps break the continuity on the walls.
Compared to an Orthodox religious building, it has a puritanical interior decoration that is mainly grouped around the main altar. The white-painted beams are decorated with barges and drawings of saints.
From here we can enter the second room through a doorway, where the pulpit is located. On the side, next to the wall, there are seating facilities, reserved for the elderly and the sick, as the community members stand or walk during the ceremony. Above the benches, drawings of saints adorn the beams, depicted with very similar facial structures, clothing, and additional elements.
There is a richer decoration on the wall behind the pulpit, and here too the depiction of the saints fills the space.
The third, small room houses the altar and the sanctuary itself, we can enter through three low doors next to each other, which often have the role of preventing no one from entering without a bow. Respect must be given…
The story behind the decorations
The pictorial representations run in bands, the first bar is at seating height, the subsequent bars are higher. This decoration is by no means primitive, rather a masterpiece of visual storytelling. However, it is not easy to solve the mistery meaning!
In the first room we can see barges on the beams, which can be a representation of the flood, and the story of Noah’s Ark. Above the saints on the walls are their names, which makes it easier to identify.them.
In the depiction of the saints, the same face is often repeated, even the color and length of the hair being the same. Another common element is the halo surrounding their head. The representation of the halo has a characteristic Orthodox style: a circle filled with painting surrounds the head, this is quite different from the Catholic representation, as there is a thin golden outline marking the halo.
The saint will be known from the devices held in his hands, for those who know their performed miracles. In the drawings of the saints, decorative elements also appear in some places, winding tendrils fill the space.
On the wall behind the main altar, at eye level, we can also see an angel depiction, the figures next to the entrances have wings. Twelve saints line up above the angels, with a central figure, they are likely to represent the apostles.
The painting is already worn out, in some places we can only see faint outlines, and the dimness inside doesn’t make things any easier. No electricity is introduced here, the only light is breaking through the small windows to illuminates the space. Splendid atmosphere! Stay silent for a minute.
If you want to read a more general introduction you should check out the article detailing the incredibly diverse history of the freedom of religion in Transylvania: Transylvanian wooden churches – a glimpse into the past.
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