The Wooden Church of Sugatag
The commune of Ocna Șugatag is known mainly for its salted water resorts, but to go there and neglect to see its other wonders would be a great mistake. One of these wonders, perhaps the most important of them, is the wooden church of Sat Șugatag, a centuries old construction that is quite representative for the wooden churches of Maramureș County in general.
History of the church
Erected in 1642 at the site of a former church and dedicated to Saint Parascheva, this Orthodox wooden church has recently been included on the list of national historical monuments.
Made of oak wood, this construction is considered by scholars a prime example of the rural sacred architecture of that age, displaying most of its main features.
On the inside, the church was painted only some one hundred years after it had been built, namely in 1753, as shown by an inscription preserved in the nave. Only some fragments of those paintings have remained to this day, mainly in the nave and the altar. The western wall of the ante-temple, which is higher than what is customary and has a flat ceiling, illustrates an interpretation of the Judgment Day. The nave has a high vault, with a XIX century interpretation of the theme of the Holy Father holding the world in His hands. While an inscription in the altar seems to indicate that the paintings were made in 1812, scholars agree that the artistic style actually pertains to the beginning of the XX century, as it is more rigid than in other parts of the church, and the scenes were painted directly on the wooden beams, which proves they were applied at a later date.
Not the least of the attractions of this church is its patrimony, composed of remarkable icons – among them one representing Saint Parascheva (authored by Vișovan Gheorghe in 1785) and one of Saint Nicholas – and home-made altar linens decorated with flowery motifs, weaved by the local women on their looms. In fact, this church is both an elegant and serene place of worship and a small-scale museum exhibiting some of the most representative elements of rural architecture and decorative style.
It was built on a rectangular outline, with a high roof and double eaves above the nave and the ante-temple. The polygonal altar has a heavy roof, with a single row of eaves, supported by sculpted cantilevers made of the joined ends of the top beams of the walls. The church has no portal proper, so it is entered through a door on its western façade. The door frame is massive, made of several parallel borders, separated by sculpted decorations representing the famous twisted rope motif. This twisted rope also appears on the outside walls, surrounding them in the middle like a rail, and it’s worth mentioning that it is not a religious symbol, but rather a laic one, as it frequently appears on many other pieces of woodwork, on houses and around them. In fact, some scholars even see a similarity between this motif appearing in sculpted wood and the more ancient occurrence of the twisted rope in stone carvings, which is thought to be of Getic origin.