The Wooden Church
of Sarbi Susani
The charming little village of Sârbi, in the commune of Budești, Maramureș County, boasts two very old wooden churches: one in the „medieval” part of the village, Sârbi Josani (“Lower Sârbi”) and the other in Sârbi Susani (“Upper Sârbi”). The latter, currently listed as a historical monument, was erected in about 1639 and dedicated to Saint Parascheva. The expenses were mainly supported by a few noble families from the upper part of the village, but even so the church was initially built without iron hinges, glass windows and bells, since these were unaffordable at that time.
History of the church
No less remarkable is the history of this place of worship. It was erected most likely in about 1639 and initially it didn’t have a steeple. The steeple was added later, probably around 1667, by simply setting it up above the ante-temple and without anchoring it to the walls of the church. In 1760 Alexandru Ponehalschi painted the altar screen. Then the shuttered window square on the eastern wall was covered completely and replaced with another small window above it. The remaining windows were then fitted with round-shaped, framed glass. In 1800 Nicolae Famokevici painted the altar and, finally, in 1921 a new roof was built on top of the old one.
Architecture of the church
In terms of architectural particularities, this medium sized church, measuring 10 m in length and 5.8 m in width, is divided from west to east by the women’s church (the ante-temple) and the men’s church (the nave), but the available room is not distributed equally between men and women; instead, women get only half of the space allotted to men. Such a ratio is specific rather to monastery churches than to rural ones. Also worthy of note is the fact that the women’s church has no windows and the only source of light is the front door.
The patrimony of the church is composed of various books and icons that were donated by the locals, throughout the ages, in an effort to improve the church. And while the sight of such items might be an incentive for tourists to stop by and visit this wonderful place of worship, its most valuable asset remains its history and the artistry and skilled employed in erecting it, shaping it, painting it and decorating it. That is the true soul of the church, and it can be seen and felt in each and every detail.
The most remarkable feature of this church is the portal or the front door, which actually constitutes a liturgical Byzantine calendar. Some of its most important elements are the three crosses, with the one on the left celebrating the Birth and the Baptism of the Savior, the one on the right the Resurrection of Jesus, the Ascension, and the Pentecost, and the one in the middle the Passions of Christ. Also marked are two symbols of the sun, in the upper corners, referring to the two solstices, the winter solstice on the left and the summer solstice on the right. Scholars have interpreted the Christian message of this portal as an exhortation to develop a rich spiritual life by believing in Jesus and participating to church life.