Saturday, October 8, 2011

Potoky, Slovakia

The tiny village of Potoky, near the town of Svidník in the north-eastern part of Slovakia, contains a beautiful example of the Lemko-Rusyn style of architecture. The church, dedicated to Saint Paraskieva, was originally constructed in 1773. A large bell tower was built in front of the church at a later date, and it contains a bell cast in 1839.
The most unique feature of the church is the height of the three narrow steeples, since they are significantly taller than those found on most of the other wooden churches in this region. In keeping with Rusyn building customs, the tallest steeple and the front entrance face towards the west. Unfortunately the original interior of the church, including the wall paintings, icons and the iconostasis, have not survived to the present day. A modern replacement of the iconostasis was added during restoration work conducted in 2010, but the appearance is thoroughly modern and lacks the traditional appearance of Greek-Catholic church interiors.
The exterior wooden shingles and wall panels were also restored in the summer of 2010, with the finished wood being treated with a preserving coat of brown varnish. This remains a controversial point among conservationists who feel that the churches of the region should be restored and left in their traditionally intended form with untreated wood. The original plans for the church site included a low stone wall that surrounded the church and the bell tower, and this feature was also restored during the renovations of 2010.
An electronic device was added to the bell tower which automatically rings the bell twice daily without the need for human involvement. Potoky is off the main road between Svidník and Stropkov, making it rather difficult to reach by public transport directly. A few buses from Svidník head to the village daily, with fewer operating on Saturdays and Sundays. Many more buses follow the Svidník to Stropkov main road, and it is possible to take one of these buses and ask to be dropped off at the turnoff towards Potoky and then walk the remaining two kilometres in along the road to reach the church.
To see the interior of the church you will need to find the key keeper in the village. The family which has it lives in a house on the same side of the road as the church, three houses further along the road from the church when you are coming from the beginning of the village.

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