January 16, 2012

A Painted Church and Graveyard in Transylvania

There must be a fascinating history behind this amazing painted church and its graveyard that I am posting for Monday Mural and Taphophile Tragics. It pains me that I cannot find anything about it (online)!




On the start of a long weekend last June my brother and I drove north from Bucharest a bit over three hours, then got off the main road at Boita to explore a string of 18 traditional Romanian settlements in a special area called Mărginimea Sibiului in southern Transylvania. Earlier I posted village scenes from this well-preserved ethnographic area along the foothills of the Cindrel Mountains.

We spotted this little Romanian Orthodox church not far from Boita, driving east toward Tălmacel (map below). Unfortunately, this is all I can tell you about this particular painted church and its graveyard. My photos will have to tell the story.

However, there are a great number of such architectural treasures - painted churches and monasteries - in Romania and Moldova built in the 16th and 17th centuries; many are listed in UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites.

It's quite possible, since we did not see headstones predating the 20th century, that this is a more recent church and graveyard. But it is still a marvel to behold.

Post script: Thanks to fellow blogger Traveling Hawk from Romania, I can now tell you a little more. This church was erected between the years 1775-1784 in Tălmacel, first recorded in 1488 as a small hamlet of ten families. Along with 246 others in Romania, the church was dedicated to the popular Saint Paraschiva. It was built and financed by the community, who made the bricks and transported them to the site on horses. Legend has it the money ran out before winter 1779, but the next spring a woman found a tub of gold coins. With this the interior was completed and painted by local masters. Restoration work was done 1975-80. [Sources: here and here.]











The main interior of the church was locked, but in the small entranceway we were greeted with a ceiling to floor fresco depiction of hell or purgatory.



Location: You can see all the towns on this map, with the highlighted orange area showing where this church should be.


The orange rectangle on this second map shows the approximate area of Marginimea Sibiului (meaning margins of Sibiu) in relation to Sibiu and Bucharest.


For more marvelous murals and fascinating burial grounds, follow the links in my opening paragraph. (Monday Murals now has a home; YaY!) I will visit as many as I can before I must close down for my trip to China. From there, accessing blogs is very difficult, thanks to an overzealous Big Brother.

47 comments:

cieldequimper said...

Wohoo, am I ze first?! I am totally in love with this church, I would spend hours trying to figure out what the frescoes mean...

Andy said...

Wow! The church is well covered in the mural. You photos taken inside are excellent.
Good news eh. We finally have a Monday Mural meme. Thanks for the heads up.
I also like looking at everyone's photos in large size. Personally I don't like Google's new Lightbox method of displaying photos when you click on them. It can be turned off. See my blogs under the header for "How To Turn Off Blogger Lightbox". Also if you hold the shift key down when clicking on the photo it will by pass Lightbox. This seems to work with Internet Explorer and Chrome.

VioletSky said...

These are simply breathtaking. I have had a couple of postcards (from Postcrossing) with images of some painted churches, but I've also had trouble finding out much information.

Thanks for letting me know we have a murals host!

Linda said...

What an incredibly beautiful church! You have done an excellent job of "taking me there" with your photos and your descriptions. Well done!

FlowerLady said...

What a lovely painted church. It would be interesting to find out information about it. I did a quick google search and like you didn't really find anything.

What wonderful experiences you have traveling the world with your camera.

Thanks again for sharing.

FlowerLady

Julie said...

I will leave this footprint to tell you I have done a first pass. 'tis a knockout as the others say, but I want to go hunt too. And I want to find out about Monday Murals. As MacArthur said ..

Francisca said...

@Julie... I'd be thrilled if you find something. I looked for hours. ;-)

Louis la Vache said...

What a fantastic post, Francisca!

La Principessa Errante said...

All these photos are just spectacular, it is such a pleasure to travel the world through your lens, and the added history, I just can't get enough.

Thank you also for the note on word verification, I hate it, and didn't know it was on my blog - turned it off as soon as I got your note -

Thank you!

Oakland Daily Photo said...

You said you'd be able to post a photo that fits both memes, and you did. I'm a bit agog at the volume and vibrancy of this art. I was in Romania once in 1970 and remember something similar in an old monastery. You've helped us see an incredible folk tradition that goes back centuries.

The graveyard impressed me too. So many styles of crosses. I wonder why a society decides to use those heavy slabs to cover the graves. I've seen them a fair amount in Taphophile Tragics too. Cultural history is fascinating.

Thanks for the encouragement and your participation in Monday Mural.

Sallie (FullTime-Life.com said...

Wonderful tour, beautiful church -- and photos. And I love it when fellow bloggers step up to provide more information as here.

Traveling Hawk said...

I'm glad it helped.

Linnea said...

Wow! You found a treasure trove when you discovered this charming little village. I've never seen a church quite so decorated with murals like that before. The townspeople must be very proud.

Carolyn Ford said...

what a fantastic post! you brought this place to life to such far away places...what a treasure!

Ann said...

that's really unusual. Usually these frescos are on the inside, not the outside. Its beautiful.

tapirgal said...

What an amazing treasure! So hard to believe there was nothing online, but I've seen that happen. And now there is, and you did it :-)

hamilton said...

I had no idea Romania had such rich art in their churches. I pass by a Romanian Church in Hamilton which is a very simple affair.

Andrea said...

Again, another amazing trip and finds, I am in awe! I wonder how those paintings are preserved through time, as they seem to be still in very good condition. I love the photos most especially the one with flowers at the foreground. I remember your coffee table book again!

Dorian Susan said...

I love this post. That view of the outside with the flowers in the foreground is so well done, and the circular stairway shot as well.
What a fascinating church and locale. i'm glad you found it and shared it with us.
Thanks for your efforts to get MM up and running. Safe travels.

Nellies said...

I have never seen anything like this painted church before. But it is beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

Gemma Wiseman said...

What a spectacular find! The painted church reminds of a story surrounding the soul! Like a film strip of characters and together they create the storyline! Must have another peek at these awesome photos!

Hilda said...

The church and even the tombs are all beautiful and fascinating! I'm so happy someone found you information about it.

Have a safe trip!

s.c said...

There are still great treasures to find. Once I saw a reportage about romanian wooden farm buildings
who had survived the communist period. Absolutely stunning with al their wood carving panels on the outside. Love your reportage about the church. Keep on clicking.

Joan Elizabeth said...

This is so beautiful.

Dianne said...

A magnificent and unique place - the art work is quite stunning.

"Adelaide and Beyond"

joo said...

I will need to revisit Romania! Still so many to see there. I visited the painter monasteries in Bukovina - they are a bit similar.
The fresco with hell scenes is amazing!

Shooting Parrots said...

What an amazing place. I particularly liked the gravestone with the bearded face in the centre. I wonder if this is a likeness of the 'owner' or of God.

It must be spooky at night, illuminated from below by its own little light.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

So interesting to discover this. A friend of my husbands posted this church through Face Book. His father, Haralamb Georgescu, immigrated from this area (I believe) and became a well known mid-century architect in California.

FrankandMary said...

This place always sort of reminds me that my life is kinda of boring...but that is ok :-).
I'm not religious at all, but the interiors/exteriors of churches always interest me.
~Mary

Gene said...

A remarkable church and graveyard, and great photos of them!

Kathy said...

The graves seem to be in such good condition and so meticulously tended. We have quite a few above-ground graves where I live from the 1800s but many are crumbling and some even have plants growing up through them!

Julie said...

Well it took longer than I thought, but I have returned. That was so good of Travelling Hawk to contact you will information. We life in a vibrant social connect.

I had no idea that churches like this existed. The graves are diverse and culturally complex, yet I am used to that from some of the cemeteries in my own city. However, the photographs of the murals on the church are awe-inspiring. I am astounded that they have stood the blasts of 300 years. I realise they have been redone, and that is a feat in itself. Just to have the craftsmen available.

This is a superb post, Francisca, with so much research and effort. Enjoy your work in China over the next little while. I hope to hear from you upon your return.

EG Wow said...

The church is in amazing condition if it dates back to the 16th and 1tth centuries! The figures do have that vintage feel, I must admit.

EG Wow said...

Oh, I just saw the post script. It has been restored!

Susan said...

Wow, they sure don't build churches now like they used to. The people in the old days had such a attitude of sacrifice to build the churches and grave yards. It is beautiful!

ladyfi said...

I've never seen anything like it! Just fabulous. And great shots.

Annie said...

Spectacular! And those interior paintings! Oh my. What a vision of hell. Fertile ground, indeed, for a Transylvania address.

Elisa said...

Just wonderful Francisca!
Greetings from Argentina
Elisa

Anita Johnson said...

Amazing! How come I have never heard of a painted church before...such history...and a little humor, the devil prodding the man along made me smile. (Wait, I don't smile for the devil!)

Kaori said...

Simply fascinating! And the mural of the devil poking his stick in someones butt is all kinds of hilarious! haha. Your photos had me wondering if people often engrave photos of the deceased in the tombstone.

Pat Tillett said...

One of the most amazing places I've ever (or never) seen. As if the building itself wasn't enough, that cemetery is also amazing!
Thanks so much!

Tatjana Parkacheva said...

Beautiful post and photos.

Regards and best wishes

☆☆Mumsy said...

What a beautiful temple and area! So much history in this just by looking at your stunning photos. However, your information helped me learn more..

Where are you? Hope everything is well with you...

Judie said...

Francisca, what a wonderful post! I am fascinated by all your glorious photos and the paintings on the church, as well as the photos of the cemetery. How fortunate you were to have visited there.

Lowell said...

What a wonderful set of photos...the church is so unique or at least I've not seen anything like it. The Orthodox do love their iconography! I'd like to visit but wouldn't want to be buried there! :-)

Kaori said...

Hello Francisca dear! Are you still on your trip to China? Hope you are doing well and see you soon :D

JM said...

That church is amazing and you got some fantastic shots of the place! Great post.