Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sat Șugatag, Romania

This beautiful church stands in the centre of the village of Sat Șugatag, located in the Mara river valley in Romania's north-eastern Maramures region. Nearly every village in this part of Maramures has a historic church, but the one in Sat Șugatag is among the most impressive structures to have been built by the skilled Maramures craftsmen. The date of the construction of the church is thought to be 1642, and it is dedicated to Saint Parasceva.
The interior contains fragments of the original mural paintings from 1753, but most of the painted decorations are more recent. The narthex (entrance area) has a higher ceiling than is typically seen in Maramures churches, and on its western side there is an impressive image of the Last Judgement. The well-proportioned nave is shaped like a barrel vault and is decorated with 19th century paintings. The sanctuary also has biblical scenes which are painted directly onto the wooden walls.
The frame for the front door is lavishly decorated with braided rope designs and a series of interlocking triangles, which is a common folk design in the Maramures region. Braided ropes start on both sides of the door and continue right around the full length of the church, about one and a half metres above the ground (see the fifth picture from the top).
The double set of eaves and the huge mass of wooden shingles on the roof surface draw the viewer's eye to the end of the roof lines, where there are two small metal crosses affixed. The height of the tower and the steeple is considerably less than that of some other churches in the region, but the overall proportions of the building create a pleasantly balanced effect. Around the exterior walls under the lower set of eaves there are a series of framed pictures attached which are used as the Stations of the Cross during religious services (see the picture below).
A cemetery surrounds the church on three sides, with grave markers from many different eras and in a variety of styles. Most are made of carved wood (see below) and some are shaped like crosses while others are closer in appearance to those in the famous Merry Cemetery in Sapanta with a painted picture of the person going about their daily activities and a short poem describing them.
A typical wooden Maramures entrance gate stands in front of the church, with two side doorways for visitors. The designs carved into the beams of the gate include crosses and other traditional Romanian folk patterns. Such monumental gates are also built in front of people's homes in the region, and the larger and more impressive the gate the greater the status of the family who lives there.
Visiting Sat Șugatag and other Maramures villages with wooden churches can be difficult without your own transport, so hiring a car in Cluj-Napoca or Sighetu Marmetiei is advisable if you want to visit several of them quickly. Sat Șugatag is on the main road between Baia Mare and Sighetu Marmetiei, so there are a few buses per day which pass through in each direction. Sighetu Marmatiei is connected by train with Cluj-Napoca and the rest of the country and also makes a good base for exploring the region of Maramures. It is also a border crossing point into Ukraine, where many more wooden churches can be seen in the villages of the Zakarpattya region.

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