The Wooden Church of Plopis Sisesti
Not many places in the world can pride themselves in having a local version of the Sistine Chapel, but the village of Plopiş, of the Şişeşti commune, Maramureş County, is one of them. And that is due to the unparalleled beauty and artistry of the paintings inside the wooden church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel.
History of the church
While the building of the church was finalized by 1805, it was only six years later, after having completed the interior painting too, that the church was consecrated and dedicated to the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel. Then, almost 100 years later, in 1901, it was repaired and brought to its current shape though the addition of a balcony.
The Value of the church
This small but wonderful Orthodox church – it measures only about 17 m in length, 7 m in width and 47 m in height – is included both in the national cultural patrimony of Romania and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a great recognition of its value.
From the outside, the first thing that strikes the viewer is the richness of decorations, proof of the painstaking work of those who erected it. The facades have two rows of accolade windows, and the verandah is bordered by a tracery railing and festooned arches on wooden pillars. The steeple has a high, pyramid-shaped roof, surrounded by four turrets.
The paintings inside, as well as some of the icons, were authored by Ştefan Zugravul, a painter of Şişeşti. Only some fragments of the mural paintings remain today, mainly on the ceiling of the nave, representing an image of the Holy Trinity, scenes from the Apocalypse and from the Passions of Christ, which are presented in parallel to enhance their moralizing value.
The wooden church of Plopiş displays a delightful mix of traditional features, specific to most wooden churches of Maramureş, and original ones, such as the vault and windows mentioned above. Anyone who sees it cannot help but be captivated by its quiet charm, the elegant lines of its architecture, and the spectacular paintings that have earned it the reputation of being a smaller-scale version of the Sistine Chapel. For tourists and locals alike, for those who see it for the first time, or see it every day, or have seen it once and are now returning, it always leaves an indelible memory.
It is a very original church, unique among all the other wooden churches in the fact that it has a trilobate vault key; also, unlike most churches of Maramureş, it has two rows of windows and a verandah on its western side.
Even more remarkable is the fact that it was built in order to replace the previous church, at a time when the village had merely 200 inhabitants, most of which, though, were wonderfully skilled carpenters and woodworkers. This is clearly visible in the exquisite finesse of the construction. Another testimony of the investment of the 49 families that contributed to erecting it is the discovery of 49 coins buried in the leg of the Communion table.