Romania seems to be littered with UNESCO sites and about midway down the Iza valley, deep in the Maramures, is yet another; the church in the wonderfully tranquil Bârsana Monastery complex. If my translation is correct the sign above the monastery gate reads: “This is none other but the house of God, this is the gate of Heaven”. (Any help with translation would be much appreciated 🙂 ) ….. and so it seems. A small convent created in post-Communist years this is a world within a world with an ethereal detached feel where time and ‘the self’ seem meaningless. The monastic buildings are beautifully crafted, mirroring the characteristic style of the area’s wooden churches, and the paths between lined with flowers. Sadly, our visit towards the end of a long dry summer was not best timed to see the gardens in all their beauty. Until recently, when claimed to be outdone by the church at Sapanta, the 180 feet tall church spire at Bârsana was the tallest wooden structure in Europe. What I find more impressive is that no power tools or fixings were used in its construction and the obvious skill moves this craftsmanship, in the church and other monastic buildings, far beyond mere carpentry. With no windows to speak of, the church interior is quite dark and a subdued glow emanates from the gold in the otherwise predominantly rich red interior.Apparently, and justifiably so, it was the quality of these paintings that earned the Church a place in the World Heritage listing.
(All images are copyright to Noeline Smith)