WOODEN TSERKVAS OF THE CARPATHIAN REGION

Smolnik wooden orthodox churchA group of 16 wooden Eastern Catholic / Orthodox churches located in Poland and Ukraine were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2013.

The tserkvas are situated in the Carpathian mountain range in southeast Poland and western Ukraine. They are Orthodox and Greek Catholic churches of which the oldest were built in the 16th century. The tserkvas are the supreme achievements of the Orthodox wooden architecture of their times and are outstanding examples of the Slavic timber-building tradition that has survived to this day.

The architectural forms of the tserkvas combine a distinct building tradition of Orthodox ecclesiastic design with elements of local tradition. The structures and forms, designs and decorative schemes are characteristic for the cultural traditions of the local communities that developed in the Polish and Ukrainian Carpathians. The local ethnic communities of Boyko, Lemko, Hutsul and Halych tribes created a specific borderland culture. Living in a quite isolated mountainous terrain abundant in forests, they created a unique wooden sacred architecture; such tserkvas do not exist in any other region in the world.

The tserkvas were built between the 16th and 19th centuries in the typical horizontal wooden log construction technique on stone foundation with wooden shingles covering roofs and walls. The tserkvas were raised on a tri-partite plans and surmounted by domes and cupolas. The exceptional carpentry skills and structural solutions amaze to this day. Important elements of some tserkvas include wooden bell towers and graveyards surrounded by walls or fences and gates, and trees.

Preserved in their historic form, the tserkvas are an excellent example of a unique wood construction buildings characteristic for the culture of the Carpathian region. 13 tserkvas are still used as churches, the other three (Radruż, Rohatyn and Drohobych) have been turned into museums.

8 tserkvas on Polish territory:
•    Tserkva of St. Michael the Archangel in Brunary Wyzne
•    Tserkva of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Chotyniec
•    Tserkva of St. Paraskevia in Kwiaton
•    Virgin Mary’s Care Tserkva in Owczary
•    St. James the Less Tserkva in Powroźnik
•    Tserkva of St. Paraskevia in Radruz
•    St. Michael the Archangel Tserkva in Smolnik
•    St. Michael the Archangel Tserkva in Turzańsk

8 tserkvas on Ukrainian territory:
•    Tserkva of Pentecost in Potylicz, Lviv region
•    Tserkva of St. Demetrius in Matkow
•    Tserkva of the Holy Trinity in Zolkiew,
•    Tserkva of St. George in Drohobych,
•    Holy Spirit Tserkva in Rohatyn, Ivano-Frankivsk District
•    Tserkva of the Birth of the Theotokos in Nizhny Werbiaz
•    Tserkva of the Ascension in Jasin
•    Tserkva of St. Archangel Michael in Uzok

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