November 8th was Bram Stokers 165th birthday and of course Halloween was a just a week before. So I think it is fitting to talk a little bit about the humble, yet magnificent, wooden churches of Transylvania. We associate that word with terror and vampires but if you really think about the word itself it is easy to decipher that it is made up of ‘trans’ and ‘sylvan’. ‘Trans’ generally means to cross over and ‘sylvan’ is another term for a forest or woods. So Transylvania refers to an area that is ‘beyond the woods’. It’s in the central area of Romania and bounded on the east and south by the Carpathian mountain range.
Now that the forest and the mountains are out of the way we can talk about the wooden churches that began to populate this area. These churches were built starting in the 17th century and are frequently on the sites of older churches. The reason for wood isn’t because wood was plentiful but because there was a prohibition against stone Orthodox churches. These churches tended to be small and dark but on the outside reflected the mountainous terrain surrounding the area. A tall and slim bell tower at the western end of the church shot past the large, overbearing roof that appears to be a response to the mountainous landscape. Of course wood doesn’t allow for the large windows that earlier Gothic and renaissance churches had.
In total about 300 hundred such churches were constructed by master carpenters. Of those approximately 100 are left. These carpenters specialized in such churches and did in fact travel about building them. There are often tell-tale (no reference to Edgar Allen Poe) construction techniques and other signs that can link individual churches back to the same groups of carpenters. Additionally those commissioning the churches had a fair amount of influence on the character of the local churches.
The above portal, or entrance clearly shows a signature rope molding of the carpenter as well as descriptive, mythological and Christian imagery on the entrance. According to the dated of the timbers for this church it was constructed in 1638-39.
Other groups also crafted spectacular wooden churches such as the Stave churches of Norway and Northern Europe and Onion domed Russian Churches made of wood.
*images courtesy of Wikipedia.
Originally posted 2012-11-11 00:52:27. Republished by Blog Post Promoter