Sunday, February 5, 2012

Nižný Komárnik, Slovakia

This beautiful church stands at the top of a tall hill overlooking the village of Nižný Komárnik, just a few kilometres from the Polish border in north-east Slovakia. Dedicated to the Protection of the Mother of God, the structure has a unique design among churches in Slovakia, since it is the only one in the country which is of the 'Boyko' style of design, more commonly seen further east in Ukrainian Galicia. The Boyko style typically has three domed towers with the highest tower placed in the centre above the nave, distinguishing it from the 'Lemko' style commonly seen in this region where the highest tower is placed above the entrance area.

Another unique aspect to this church is that its designer is well-known, the Ukrainian architect and explorer Vladimír Sičynský. All other wooden churches in Slovakia were constructed by local builders whose names have been lost to history due to the lack of official records. Sičynský oversaw the construction of the church in 1938, meaning the temple is much younger than most others in the surrounding region. The new church replaced an older baroque wooden church which was pulled down after the modern one was completed.

Another interesting feature of this temple is that it has two entrances, one on the south side leading into the sanctuary and one of the western side. The interior of the church is lit by high windows in both the sanctuary and the nave.

The iconostasis dates from the early 19th century, and it is thought that some of the icons come from the original iconostasis of the first wooden church in the village from the start of the 18th century. The iconostasis has an unusual three-row style since it was not designed for this church and had to be modified by placing the apostles and prophets higher up in the dome. To the north of the church is a large wooden bell tower with a domed roof. The bell tower was partially restored in 2003.

This is one of the most atmospheric churches in the region due to its magnificent hilltop setting above the village. Looking across the valley from the hill you can see a Russian Red Army World War Two aircraft, preserved as a monument to the intense battle for the Dukla pass which took place just north of here. The village is on the main road from Svidník to the Polish border, so buses run to the village quite frequently from Svidník. The key for the church is kept by the family who live in the house directly below the church at the beginning of the path that climbs the hill.

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