The Greek Catholic parish tserkva of St Michael the Archangel, Smolnik
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The Greek Catholic parish tserkva of St Michael the Archangel

Smolnik

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The tserkva is one of the few surviving examples of the vernacular Boyko tserkvas in Poland. It is considered to be an example of the “simple” variant of the Boyko tserkva, representing the oldest known forms of Ruthenian wooden churches. The inclusion of the building on the UNESCO world heritage list is a sign of appreciation and acknowledgement of its unique value.

History

Based on archival materials, it has been determined that the Smolnik tserkva is the third building of this type which was erected in this location. The church was constructed in 1791, as evidenced by the inscription in Cyrillic which survives on the lintel above the entrance. It is known that its predecessor did not stand on exactly the same spot as the new tserkva. The building is located on the right bank of the San river, in the centre of the now-defunct village. The first known comprehensive renovation of the tserkva took place in 1921 and included the restoration of the iconostasis by Ilia Decik of Sambor. The old roof, covered with wood shingles, was replaced by a sheet metal one in 1921 or 1934. The walls, once also clad in wood shingles, were now covered with vertically positioned weatherboards. The choir gallery was relocated from the nave to the narthex. Following the relocation of the Ukrainian residents of the village to the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the abandoned tserkva has begun to dilapidate. In years 1951-1960, the entire village was gradually demolished, so that, in the end, only the old tserkva remained. In years 1969-1974, the tserkva was subjected to renovation works, as a result of which the original wood shingle cladding of both the roof and the walls was restored. The sacristy and the small porch in front of the narthex were demolished, while the wall painting found on the iconostasis wall was subjected to conservation works. In 1973, by decision of the district authorities in Lesko, the Smolnik tserkva was transferred to the Roman Catholic parish in Lutowiska. In 1974, the tserkva - now serving as a filial church of Assumption of the Virgin Mary - was consecrated, while the interior renovation works were completed a year later. In the course of renovation works performed in years 1994-1996, a wooden fence with wood shingle roofing was constructed around the tserkva and the cemetery. A comprehensive restoration of the church was performed in years 2004-2007. The works in question included, inter alia, the restoration of the structure supporting the floor, the replacement of the wood shingle cladding of the roof as well as parts of the roof truss. In 2009, conservation works began on the wall paintings, while the chancel received new furnishings. In 2013, the tserkva was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List (under the entry designated asWooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine).

Description

The church is situated beyond the existing village of Smolnik, east of the place where the roads leading to Zatwarnica and Lutowiska part. The tserkva stands on a hill beyond the Smolnik stream. The area around the tserkva is circumscribed by a wooden fence and old-growth trees. A 19th century cemetery adjoins the tserkva from the east; it features a few remaining stone gravestones, most of them dating back to the early 20th century. The tserkva is orientated towards the east.

It features a tripartite layout consisting of three sections - the chancel, the nave and the narthex. The chancel (built on a square floor plan) and the narthex (built on a rectangular floor plan) have an identical width; the nave, wider than the chancel and the narthex, was built on a square plan.

The shape of the building is clearly divided into three section, with the middle segment - the nave - being slightly larger than the rest. The walls of all segments of the tserkva have a similar height and are all covered with single-section tented roofs which vary slightly in terms of both size and height, surmounted by small poppy head-shaped domes and metal crosses. The roof above the nave is slightly higher than the roofs of the narthex and chancel.

The tserkva is made of wooden logs (corner-notched log construction); it stands on a foundation made of split stone. At the corners of the building, the logs are bound together using lap joints reinforced by hidden dowel pins. The corners feature protruding log ends. From the first to the fifth course of beams (from the bottom upwards), the ends of the interlocking beams project outwards, becoming longer with each successive course. The longest ends of the fifth (uppermost) course of beams serve as brackets for the skirt roof which runs along the entire perimeter of the tserkva. The log construction is also used for the quadrilateral cupola ceilings in the nave and chancel as well as for the barrel vault in the narthex. The walls and cupola ceiling if the nave are reinforced with cross braces at two levels, with one being attached to the top plate log of the nave and the other - to the top plate log of the low wall separating the lower and upper tiers of the roof. The tserkva features full wood shingle cladding, although originally the wooden logs below the skirt roof were left exposed. A single entrance in the western narthex wall leads into the church. The doorway itself is rectangular in shape, flanked by door reveals with a lintel which features a Cyrillic inscription with the date of construction of the tserkva, which is now partially obscured. The windows are rectangular in shape and feature decorative wooden boards flanking the windows as well as parapets and pentice boards covered with wood shingles.

Inside the church a spacious, rectangular passage between the nave and the chancel is clearly apparent, having been created by removing the iconostasis partition and a number of structural beams in the eastern wall of the nave. The partition wall made of wooden logs and reaching to half the height of the eastern wall of the nave is a later addition and is not connected to the walls of the nave or the chancel. The chancel floor is one step higher than the nave floor. The passage between the narthex and the nave has been modified; it is marked by a sill log and separated by low partition walls flanking the passage and rising to a height of about 80 cm; the partition is made up of the protruding ends of three lowermost logs forming the structure of the western wall of the nave. The upper section of the passage is rectangular in shape, with traces of an earlier arched passageway. The overhanging choir gallery was reconstructed at a later date; it abuts the western wall of the nave and features a simple sill and a decorative wooden fretwork balustrade. The choir gallery was reconstructed using pieces of the earlier gallery, whose mortises and joints can still be found on the narthex walls; yet even that earlier gallery was not part of the original interior fittings installed when the tserkva was first built.

The surviving parts of the original fittings include the wall painting which adorns the iconostasis wall inside the nave, dating back to the late 18th century. Ornamental wall paintings from the second half of the 19th century have also survived on the chancel walls. After World War II, the interior fittings once present on site have been moved to various locations. Some have ended up in a number of churches in the Ukraine, some in the Nationak Museum in Lviv, while others still are now stored in the Tserkva Art Department of the Museum at the Łańcut Castle. In 2009, new interior fittings were installed in the chancel, including two contemporary icons, antique holy doors and a tabernacle which bearing the hallmarks of the Gothic Revival style.

The building is available all year round; interior tours upon prior telephone appointment.

Compiled by Ryszard Kwolek, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Rzeszów, 28.08.2014.

Bibliography

  • Karta ewidencyjna, Cerkiew w Smolniku, oprac. Szanter Z., Archiwum Wojewódzkiego Urzędu Ochrony Zabytków Delegatura w Krośnie.
  • Augustyn M., Szczerbicki A., Cerkiew w Smolniku, Lutowiska 2004.
  • Bańkosz R., Cerkwie bieszczadzkich Bojków, Krosno 2010.
  • Augustyn M., Kryciński S., Modrzejewski S., Szewc R., Bieszczady. Słownik historyczno-krajoznawczy, cz. 1: Gmina Lutowiska, Ustrzyki Górne-Warszawa 1995.
  • Katalog Zabytków Sztuki w Polsce, Woj. krośnieńskie, Lesko, Sanok, Ustrzyki Dolne i okolice, Warszawa 1982.
  • Kryciński S., Cerkwie w Bieszczadach, Pruszków 1995.
  • Saładiak A., Pamiątki i zabytki kultury ukraińskiej w Polsce, Warszawa1993.
  • Szematyzmy duchowieństwa grekokatolickiego z lat 1877, 1879, 1927, 1936, 1938-39.
  • Wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region in Poland and Ukraine, Warsaw-Kiev 2011.

General information

  • Type: tserkva
  • Chronology: 1791 r.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Smolnik
  • Location: Voivodeship podkarpackie, district bieszczadzki, commune Lutowiska
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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