Slovakia’s wooden churches received international recognition in July 2008, when eight of them were added by the cultural organisation UNESCO to its World Heritage List. Among them were the ‘articular’ Protestant church in Hronsek (see ‘Articles of faith’ in the section on Banská Bystrica Region) and the Roman Catholic All Saints church in Tvrdošín (mentioned in ‘Lair of the vampire’, in the section on Žilina Region).
Most of Slovakia’s wooden churches can be found in the east of the country. The following is a small selection:
The wooden church of St Michael the Archangel in Ladomirová, near Svidník, was built in 1742 without the use of a single nail, which helped it to gain UNESCO recognition.
As with many other churches in the area, a characteristic feature is the emphasis on the number three. The church is divided into three sections – the babinec (the area where women used to sit and pray), the nave (the area assigned for men) and the altar.
The church was initially Greek Catholic but later became Eastern Orthodox. It was damaged during WWII and restored in 1946, only to require further work after being struck by a falling tree 11 years later.
The church of St Michael the Archangel was built in 1718 and is the centrepiece of the village of Uličské Krivé, near Snina.
It is well preserved and features two towers with simple crosses which rise from a shingle roof. The church is set on a low stone base and surrounded by a cemetery. Some of the icons inside, which were painted in the 16th century, predate the church. It is not on the UNESCO list.
St Gregory’s Church in Jalová
Photos by James Thomson
Just off the road to Uličské Krivé, in the Bukov Hills north-east of Snina, is the village of Jalová. Its Greek Catholic church, dedicated to St Gregory, was built in 1792.
It is not on the UNESCO list, or even on Slovakia’s list of National Cultural Monuments, because a restoration in 2002 was deemed not to have followed strict rules (the Ruthenian parishioners say a complete reconstruction proved necessary as beetles had infested the original structure).
Whatever its historical credentials, its romantic setting is enhanced by the trees around it, which are as old as the original church.
The church of St Nicholas the Bishop in Ruská Bystrá.
Photos by James Thomson
The Greek Catholic church of St Nicholas the Bishop in Ruská Bystrá (part of Košice Region) nestles in a fold of the Vihorlat Hills close to the Ukrainian border.
The church dates from the beginning of the 18th century and is notable for its unusual shape. The building consists of a nave, a tower space and a polygonal altar room and has something of the air of a farmhouse because of its characteristic shingle roof.
The icons inside were sent to Prague for restoration in 1989 and, after the turmoil of that year, locals wondered whether they would ever get them back. But return they did, restored as hoped, and after a series of visits from French, German and Finnish representatives over recent years, the church was among the eight listed by UNESCO in 2008.