Ten years ago, the wooden Tserkvas of the Carpathian Region of Poland were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. On the Polish side, these are Orthodox churches in: Chotyniec, Radruża, Smolnik, Turzańsk, Bunary Wyżne, Kwiatoń, Owczary and Powroźnik.
Situated in the eastern fringe of Central Europe, the transnational property numbers a selection of sixteen tserkvas (churches). They were built of horizontal wooden logs between the 16th and 19th centuries by communities of Orthodox and Greek Catholic faiths. The tserkvas bear testimony to a distinct building tradition rooted in Orthodox ecclesiastic design interwoven with elements of local tradition, and symbolic references to their communities’ cosmogony. The tserkvas are built on a tri-partite plan surmounted by open quadrilateral or octagonal domes and cupolas. Integral to tserkvas are iconostasis screens, interior polychrome decorations, and other historic furnishings. Important elements of some tserkvas include wooden bell towers, churchyards, gatehouses and graveyards.
Located at the eastern fringes of Central Europe within the Polish and Ukrainian Carpathian mountain range, the sixteen wooden tserkvas (churches) are outstanding examples of the once widespread Orthodox ecclesiastical timber-building tradition in the Slavic countries that survives to this day. The architectural forms of the tserkvas with tri-partite plans, pyramidal domes, cupolas and bell towers conform to the requirements of Eastern liturgy while reflecting the cultural traditions of the local communities that developed separately due to the mountainous terrain. They include Hutsul types in the Ukrainian south-eastern Carpathians at Nyzhniy Verbizh and Yasynia; Halych types in the northern Carpathians either side of the Polish/Ukrainian border at Rohatyn, Drohobych, Zhovkva, Potelych, Radruż and Chotyniec; Boyko types either side of the Polish/Ukrainian border near the border with Slovakia at Smolnik, Uzhok and Matkiv, and western Lemko types in the Polish west Carpathians at Powroźnik, Brunary Wyźne, Owczary, Kwiatoń and Turzańsk. Built using the horizontal log technique with complex corner jointing, and exhibiting exceptional carpentry skills and structural solutions, the tserkvas were raised on wooden sills placed on stone foundations, with wooden shingles covering roofs and walls. The tserkvas with their associated graveyards and sometimes free-standing bell towers are bounded by perimeter walls or fences and gates, surrounded by trees. (UNESCO)