Below we present a text about the wooden churches in the Polish Carpathians written and illustrated by Marek Angiel.
Wooden churches are very remarkable structures. Full of charm, they attract with their mystery and simple beauty, but most of all they are the temples approaching man to God. Polish Carpathian wooden churches – Catholic and Greek Catholic ones – can be seen in rural areas. They are typical and leading element of the cultural landscape of an existing or non-existing villages in the mountain areas or foothills. Lumps of these small temples perfectly and naturally fit in with the surroundings, creating unity with the natural elements of the landscape.
Czarna, Beskid Niski (2009)
The decisive factor is the size of the solid temples, proportions of the building and the roof, material used for the construction, towers, turrets, helmets, subtlety of details and the color of the building.
In the area of Polish Carpathians there are over 270 wooden temples, which were built as Catholic or Protestant churches, and more than 160 wooden churches built by the Greek Catholics. The existence of such a large number of active wooden sacral buildings in the area of Polish Carpathians is unique in the world! The condition of these temples is mostly good, the facilities are being renovated, and the most valuable ones are protected by conservation. Almost all wooden churches are currently active temples, which serve for masses and other religious ceremonies. Their age and historical or artistic values are different but what unites them is that they are made of wood.
Rzepedź, Beskid Niski (2009)
Wooden churches can be found in all parts of the Polish Carpathian Mountains – in the Tatra Mountains, the Beskids and Carpathian Foothills. The oldest wooden Roman Catholic churches in the region come from the 15th century. For centuries the appearance of wooden churches was changing, various types of buildings were erected, and older buildings were rebuilt. Temples originating in 15th, 16th and 17th centuries present characteristics of the Gothic or the Late Gothic style, churches from 18th century refer to the Baroque, and the buildings of the 19th and 20th centuries refer to the Gothic style, or have the characteristics of modern architecture.
Binczarowa, Beskid Niski (2010)
Older temples have mostly one nave, with a narrower, polygonal or – less frequently – rectangular presbytery. Churches are built mostly in a framework way, their towers usually have a skeleton (columnar) structure. The walls of churches and towers are covered with shingles or formwork boards. For wooden Gothic churches in the area of Polish Carpathians, the most characteristic is the roof structure – churches are covered with slender, one ridge roof covered with shingle or sheet metal.
Orthodox wooden building in the area of Polish Carpathians is varied. It appears in the areas inhabited (until 1947) by the population consisting in the majority or a large part of the Ruthenian: Bieszczady Sanocko-Turczańskie, Pogórze Przemyskie, Beskid Niski (Low Beskid) and Beskid Sądecki. The oldest wooden Greek Catholic churches come from the end of the 16th century and represent an archaic type of the Ruthenian Greek Catholic church. Most of the church dates from the 19th century, but many of those objects originate in the 18th century. The largest and most diverse group includes Lemko churches in the area of the Beskid Niski Mountains and Beskid Sądecki which, due to the characteristics of the structure and location of the region, are divided into distinctive and unique types. The most numerous types are represented by the western Lemko population churches. In the photo: Komańcza, Beskid Niski.
The vast majority of wooden churches in the Polish Carpathians is a tripartite structures consisting of three basic premises: the chancel (sanctuary) – the place for the priest; the nave – a place for believers (formerly only for men); and the women’s gallery. Many churches have towers that are constructed on the ground or on the framework of a women’s gallery. Greek Catholic churches are timbered buildings with columnar towers. Buildings are covered with a roof of varied structure. In the case of the western Lemko church each part has a separate tent roof covering or tent broken covering. Roofs are crowned with helmets in the shape of flattened sphere or onions, decorated on the top with ornate cross.
Uście Gorlickie, Beskid Niski
The walls and towers of the church are covered with shingles or formwork boards, and the roofs are covered with shingles or sheet metal.
Chyrowa, Beskid Niski, Greek Catholic church (2009)
Among the Polish Carpathians churches – Catholic and Greek Catholic ones – a lot is unique. In 2003 six wooden churches from Binarowa, Blizne, Debno Podhalańskie, Haczów, Lipnica Murowana and Sękowa had been listed together (as a complex of building) on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In 2013 sixteen wooden churches from the Carpathian region of Poland and Ukraine were added. Eight of the most valuable churches according to UNESCO are located in the following villages: Raduż, Chotyniec, Smolnik, Turzańsk, Powroźnik, Owczary, Kwiatoń and Brunary Wyżne.
Brunary Wyżne, Beskid Niski
The pictures of wooden sacred objects presented in this article and in the gallery come from numerous expeditions of the photographer Marek Angiel to the Polish Carpathians in the years 2002-2011. They represent churches of the Carpathian part of the provinces of the Little Poland (Malopolska) and Podkarpackie.
Gallery: New: Wooden temples
Marek Angiel – geographer, traveler, explorer, actively cultivating his profession; born in Gdańsk, Varsovian of choice. He photographs light and color of nature, cities, towns and villages. He meets and discovers the identity of the Polish regions seeking order, harmony and beauty in the cultural landscapes of his homeland. He loves Polish Carpathian Mountains, Sudety Mountains, Polish sea coast, Pomeranian Lake District, the spaces of the Arctic, the interior towns and cities.
Polen voor Nederlanders sincerely thanks Mr. Marek Angiel for sharing his excellent photos and texts.