The Poienile Izei Wooden Church
The village of Poienile Izei has been through many changes since it was first established, around the first half of the XV century, according to the first existing historical record of 1430. Not the least of them, a change of names from Poienile lui Ilieș to Poienile Glodului and then, finally, to Poienile Izei. Still, the one constant in the life of this community has been its Orthodox faith, the most remarkable proof of which is the wooden church built by the villagers in 1632.
The first historical mention of a church in this village goes back to 1604, but the local priest claims the church is actually older, and the statement is supported by arguments provided by its architecture. Specifically, the apse of the altar is square-shaped, while for most wooden churches built in Maramureș after the XV century the apse is polygonal.
Be that as it may, what is known for certain is the fact that the church was subjected to several improvements and modifications over time.
One particularity of this church, dedicated to Saint Parascheva and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the existence of a metal crescent located right beneath the cross on top of the roof, that some claim was placed there to protect the church in case of a Tartar or Turk invasion. While it is true that, after the Tartar invasion of 1717, the only two churches that were left untouched were this one and the one from Ieud Deal, scholars agree there is actually a different explanation for that. Namely, that the crescent is in fact a personified moon (with eyes, a nose and a mouth), whereas at the bottom of the cross there is a representation of the Globe and at the intersection between the arms of the cross there is a symbol of the sun. These three elements are meant as a metaphor for a Cosmic Liturgy, based on the concept that Christ’s Death on the Cross restores the primordial harmony of the genesis and blesses the entire universe, the sun, moon and earth.
And because such a Cosmic Liturgy needs a proper soundtrack, the church is also equipped with three harmonized bells which produce a particularly beautiful chime. The smallest one, of only 15 kg, was made in the XIII century, whereas the other two, weighing 30 kg and 37 kg respectively, were made in 1673. Added to the countless cult objects and icons of indescribable beauty and historical value, they make of the wooden church of Poienile Izei a genuine museum of art, as well as a monument of faith that remained steadfast through the ages.
Its height was increased during the first half of the XVIII century, and then in 1785 it had its chancel painted by the renowned Radu Munteanu, whereas the rest of the church was painted in 1794 by a local painter.
The verandah was added during the first half of the XIX century and the end of the same century saw the completion of the rectangular windows between the nave and the nave and the ante-temple.