The Budesti Josani Wooden Church
The village of Budești, in Maramureș County, northern Romania, hosts a community large enough to have two different parishes, an Orthodox one and a Greek-Catholic one. This division also translates into a geographical one, as the locals differentiate between Budești Susani (which roughly translates as “Upper Budești”) and Budești Josani (“Lower Budești”). The latter is home to a wooden church that is listed as a World Heritage Site.
The wooden church of Budești Joseni was built in 1643, some three hundred years after the first historical record of the village of Budești (which was in 1361). Right from the beginning it was dedicated to Saint Nicholas and it was one of the few churches to serve as a parish, without interruptions, even during the Communist regime.
It must be said, though, that, while it was originally a Greek Catholic church, in 1948 it was transferred to the Orthodox Church and it was only recently, after 1989, that the Greek-Catholics claimed it back.
Structurally, the church is made of the three traditional rooms: the altar is covered by a half-dome, the nave by a semi-cylindrical arched roof, and the ante-temple by a series of massive beams which support the steeple.
The paintings inside the church represent various scenes that are separated through stripes of different colors. Most of them date back to 1762 and were authored by Alexandru Ponehalschi, a well-known XVIII century iconographer of post-byzantine inspiration. The newer ones were made in 1812 by a baroque painter, Ianoș Opriș, who was also the author of the central icon, “Coronation of the Virgin Mary”, located on the altar. A particularity of the paintings inside this church is that the arched roof above the nave is naked, as the painted canvas has been ripped off and stolen at some point in the past.
Last but not least, it’s worth mentioning that this church also serves as a small museum as, in addition to the artistic value of the paintings inside, it also has on display items that are thought to have belonged to the famous outlaw Pintea the Brave, namely his helmet and mail armor, which he entrusted to the care of the church after the 1717 battle against the Tartars. So any visitor of this church, whether in search of spiritual enlightenment, or a lover of fine arts, or even someone seeking to catch a glimpse of history, is sure to leave this place completely satisfied.
Erected by the locals on a small hill in the center of the village, the wooden church of Budeşti Joseni was considered a magnificent construction for its age and has maintained that reputation to this day. At 18 m in length and 8 m in width (and with a height of 26 m at tower level), it stands as the largest wooden church in the area that was, historically, Maramureş.
Despite its non-conventional size, it is actually a fine example of typical wooden churches of Maramureş. It is the only one within this area that displays four conical turrets in each corner of the square that stands as the basis of the steeple.