Wooden churches of UNESCO World Heritage

Location: Prešovský kraj, okres Bardejov, Koprivnica

GPS: N49°10'18'' E21°22'27''

An ideal position at the heart of Europe, a history spanning millennia, and the influence of neighbouring nations have all left Slovakia with a manifold cultural heritage. Through the territory of what is today Slovakia ran an imaginary border of two cultures, occidental and oriental.

The sacral wooden architecture of the Carpathian basin is one of the proofs. For that reason, the churches are unique in their combination of the elements of both Latin and Byzantine styles.

The wooden churches are specific samples of sacred architecture in Slovakia. Out of more than 300 wooden churches originally built, only about sixty have been preserved.

Their folk builders expressed the perfect harmony of the human soul with nature and the effort to disengage from earthly worries. Many wooden churches are still used for religious ceremonies to this day.

There are over 60 unique wooden sacral buildings scattered throughout Slovakia, with the eight rarest being inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008. The wooden Roman Catholic churches in Hervartov and Tvrdošín, the articular Evangelical churches in Kežmarok, Leštiny, and Hronsek, and the shrines of the Eastern Orthodox Church in Bodružal, Ladomirová, and Ruská Bystrá are among the greatest and most interesting sacral gems that Slovakia has to offer its visitors in the Slovak portion of the Carpathian arc.

These are only couple out of tens of wooden churches all across Slovakia. The articled ones are truly extraordinary. They were built without any metal parts such as nails, and without any tower. Not only is the group of these churches a testimony to the coexistence of different religious faiths in the area, but also show a deep connection between nature and the human's soul.

Slovakia has 7 sights inscribed in the World Heritage List – 5 cultural and 2 natural. Best historic and cultural sites of Slovakia's cultural heritage has been listed here. In 1993 UNESCO also included into historic Slovak landmarks Spiš Castle and its surroundings, Banská Štiavnica and Vlkolínec. In 2000 the historical Šariš town Bardejov was added and in 2009 the Spiš town of Levoča.

Eight wooden churches located in north-eastern Slovakia were included into the UNESCO's World Heritage List in 2008. The Wooden Churches of the Slovak part of Carpathian Mountain Area inscribed on the World Heritage List consist of two Roman Catholic, three Protestant and three Greek Orthodox churches built between the 16th and 18th centuries. This system of eight wooden temples is a unique example of the European wooden sacral architecture. The oldest ones were constructed in the sixteenth century and some are still places of regular church services. Being inscribed into the list was the greatest honor they could ever received.

The pride of Orava – the town of Tvrdošín and its oldest preserved monument, the Gothic wooden All Saints Church – attract visitors with its rare Baroque altar and stunning arch murals.

The striking Orava region is home to a unique treasure in the form of the wooden articular Church of Leštiny. The church interior is richly adorned, dominated by flowery wall murals, a richly decorated pulpit, and a rare Baroque altar with fine woodcarving.

Not far from the village of Hronsek, the surroundings of the historical, former mining town of Banská Bystrica offer visitors a special treat. The framework construction of the village's wooden articular church, dating from 1726, contains some incredibly unique features. A belfry of the same architecture is located next to the church. The interior is adorned with a colourful altar of six interchangeable pictures, the choir benches are arranged as an amphitheatre, and it boasts especially excellent acoustics.

In a perfect setting below the spectacular peaks of the High Tatra Mountains, the historic town of Kežmarok is home to the Baroque wooden Church of the Holy Trinity, which was built in the shape of an equal-armed Greek cross. One of the most impressive and striking wooden churches, it also contains fascinating wood carvings, unique frescos,
a stunning large wooden altar, and a rare church organ with wooden pipes.

The picturesque Šariš village of Hervartov is home to the oldest and best-preserved wooden church from the 15th century, the Church of Francis of Assisi, where you can admire its beautiful Gothic icons and wall murals.

Eastern Slovakia boasts several unique wooden churches, but the Church of St Nicholas in Bodružal is one of the oldest and best-preserved Eastern Orthodox churches in all of Slovakia. This impressive three-section log structure contains a unique iconostasis painted on both sides.

One of the most beautiful wooden Orthodox churches in Slovakia, the Greek Catholic Church of the Archangel Michael, can be found near Svidník in the charming village of Ladomirová. A look at the interior of the church offers a rare chance to see the church's artistic iconostasis and 18th-century altar.

Right next to the border with Ukraine, in the charming village of Ruská Bystrá, is the wooden Greek Catholic Church of the Relics of St. Nicholas built in 1730, which differs from the other temples of the Orthodox Church in its architecture. The interior is decorated with a rare and unique icon of the Crucifixion.

Plan a trip to explore the unique wooden churches of the Carpathian arc. Get to know the places of exceptional beauty and extraordinary universal value that cannot be found anywhere else.

Author: Marián Ondrišík