Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpatian Region in Poland and Ukraine,
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpatian Region in Poland and Ukraine

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The entry on the World Heritage List pertaining to the Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine encompasses the following sites:

  • the tserkva of St Michael the Archangel in Brunary Wyżne (Poland),
  • the tserkva of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Chotyniec (Poland),
  • the tserkva of St Paraskeva in Kwiatoń (Poland),
  • the tserkva of the Protection of the Mother of God in Owczary (Poland),
  • the tserkva of James, son of Alphaeus in Powroźnik (Poland),
  • the tserkva of St Paraskeva in Radruż (Poland),
  • the tserkva of St Michael the Archangel in Smolnik (Poland),
  • the tserkva of St Michael the Archangel in Turzańsk (Poland),
  • the tserkva of St George in Drohobych (Ukraine),
  • the tserkva of the Ascension of Christ in Yasynia (Ukraine),
  • the tserkva of St Dmytro in Matkiv (Ukraine),
  • the tserkva of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in Potelych (Ukraine),
  • the tserkva of the Descent of the Holy Spirit in Rohatyn (Ukraine),
  • the tserkva of the Nativity of the Mother of God in Nyzhnii Verbizh (Ukraine),
  • the tserkva of St Michael the Archangel in Uzhok (Ukraine),
  • the tserkva of The Holy Trinity in Zhovkva (Ukraine).
 

The Ukrainian Greek Catholic tserkvas, located on both the Polish and the Ukrainian side of the border, exemplify the long-standing tradition of wooden ecclesiastical buildings of the Carpathian region, born out of the cultural convergence of the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Featuring a tripartite layout, covered with hip roofs and sometimes accompanied by free-standing bell towers, these tserkvas comply with all the liturgical requirements and, at the same time, retain their unique, local character, partially owing to the remote, mountainous locations in which the local communities live. The representative group of 16 tserkvas includes various architectural variations which are characteristic for the region; the churches located in the south-eastern, Ukrainian part of the Carpathian Mountains (Nyzhnii Verbizh and Yasynia) feature Hutsul influences, while the tserkvas of the southern region of the Carpathian Mountains, located in both Poland and Ukraine (Rohatyn, Drohobych, Zhovkva, Potylich, Radruż and Chotyniec) are churches of the Halych type. Boyko influences can be seen in temples built near the Slovakian border (Smolnik, Uzhok and Matkiv), while those in the Polish Western Carpathian Mountains (Powroźnik, Brunary Wyżne, Owczary, Kwiatoń and Turzańsk) bear the hallmarks of Lemko architecture. Featuring a corner-notched log structure, these buildings (including, in particular, their complex system of corner notches) bear testimony to the excellent local craftsmanship. The preserved knowledge of the traditional carpentry techniques has made it possible for these tserkvas to be maintained in a good condition through the skillful repairs of wooden structural components and the necessary replacement of the wood shingle cladding on both roofs and walls. The tserkvas are also notable due to the high degree of authenticity of their decorations. Many buildings retain their original doors and lintels, bearing the carved inscription stating the date on which the given church was built, along with the name of the carpenter responsible for its construction.

The areas in the immediate vicinity of the churches, which - in most cases - still serve a religious function - have not seen any substantial changes, which means that these tserkvas and their surroundings still form picturesque, sacred enclaves. Surrounded by walls or fences lined with trees, the yards surrounding the tserkvas often feature free-standing bell towers, cemeteries and accompanying structures.

The Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine were included on the World Heritage List in 2013 during the 37th session of the World Heritage Committee in Phnom Penh (dec. 37 COM 8B.37).

Entry made on the basis of criteria III and IV:

Criterion (III):

The tserkvas bear exceptional testimony to a distinct ecclesiastical building tradition, which is grounded in the mainstream traditions of the Orthodox Church interwoven with local architectural language. The structures, designs and decorative schemes are characteristic for the cultural traditions of the resident communities in the Carpathian region and illustrate a multiplicity of symbolic references and sacred meanings related to the traditions.

Criterion (IV):

The tserkvas are an outstanding example of a group of buildings in traditional log construction type which represents an important historical stage of architectural design in the Carpathian Region. Based on building traditions for Orthodox ecclesiastical purposes which were adapted in accordance with the local cultural traditions, the tserkvas, as they evolved from the 16th to the 19th centuries, reflect the sacred references of the resident communities.

Buildings are available to visitors. The tserkvas in Radruz, Rohatyn and Drohobych are currently used as museums.

Compiled on the basis of materials of the National Heritage Board of Poland 30-11-2015

General information

  • Type: cultural
  • Chronology: XVI - XIX w.
  • Form of protection: UNESCO
  • Location: Voivodeship podkarpackie, district , commune
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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