Barsana Monastery is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Maramures. But although it receives a lot of visitors daily, few know the true history of the place. There are 2 settlements in Barsana: the monastery and the wooden church, a UNESCO heritage site.
The Barsana village is attested starting with 1326 when on September 26. King Carol Robert issues a diploma by which the rights of possession over the Barsana estate are strengthened. Other documents from 1390 attest for the first time to the existence of a church here in Barsana. They describe the road that forks, one side leading to the village, and the other to the beautiful monastery. But what is the real story of the Barsana Monastery?
Barsana Monastery in Maramures
Located in the historic region Maramures, Barsana is a nunnery, re-established in 1993. It was known as the tallest wooden church in Europe until 2003. In 2003 it was overtaken by the church of Perii Maramuresului from Sapanta.
It was rebuilt on the site of the former Barsana monastery. The church of the old monastery was moved and today it is a UNESCO heritage. That is why everything looks new here.
Barsana Monastery is actually the name of an entire monastic complex, wooden constructions, specifically from Maramures.
It is located near the banks of the Iza river. The nearest town is Sighetul Marmatiei (22 km) and it is located approximately 45 km from Negresti-Oaş.
Its architecture is truly spectacular, the entire construction is made of wood. You will be able to step inside the courtyard through a wooden gate. Here, you will admire the church with a height of 57 meters. You can also see the nuns’ cells, the chapel, the house of the artists, the house of the masters and the bell tower.
The complex includes the traditional Maramures gate, the bell tower, the place of worship itself (the church). It has also the summer altar, the nuns’ cells, the chapel and last but not least the artist’s workshop.
The architect Dorel Cordos is the one who created the whole project of the Barsana Monastery. He developed the place more and more according to the needs of the nuns and villagers, but especially the financial possibilities. The entrance to the actual courtyard of the monastery is under the bell tower. Immediately on the right side, the Barsana Monastery rises proudly towards the sky.
The cobbled alleys lead visitors to the various points of the monastic complex. All the annexes of the Barsana Monastery are open for visits. This way, the tourists can leisurely admire the beauty of the Maramures architecture.
In the courtyard of the monastery, there is also a museum. Here, all kinds of interesting objects, old icons, documents of the past and information about the history of the place are exhibited. The museum is arranged on two levels. On the ground floor, there are religious objects, and on the first floor, there are traditional objects from Maramures.
Barsana Monastery can be visited at any time of the year. But the monastic complex is truly flourishing during the warm season. In summer, the alleys are full of multicoloured flowers and inviting fragrances. To see the artists’ work up close, visitors can enter the artists’ houses. Here, they paint icons or carry out various building maintenance works.
The monastery’s celebration is held on June 30: “Council of the Saints”, its protectors being the 12 apostles who accompanied Jesus on his journeys.
But the imposing Barsana monastery is not a UNESCO heritage site.
Barsana wooden church
The wooden church in Barsana, which bears the patron saint “The Entry of the Mother of God into the Church”, was built in 1711. This is one of the 8 wooden churches in Maramures, a UNESCO heritage site.
It is located on Jbâr Hill and today it is on the UNESCO list. If the Barsana Monastery is still active and you can attend services here, the small wooden church on the hill remained only a museum.
It seems that the wooden church in Barsana was built as a sign of gratitude, to thank God for protection during the plague of 1710. It was moved several times, inside the cemetery, then in the middle of the village and, finally, it was brought here, on the hill, around 1800.
Inside it is still preserved a part of the mural painting, which can be best observed in the altar and nave. The painting is made on pieces of textile material that were fixed on the walls and then covered with a layer of lime. The entire painting of the church dates from 1806.
It is interesting that this small wooden church receives fewer visitors than the Barsana monastery. Many people confuse them and they come here in search of the church on the UNESCO list, but visit only the large monastery.
So, the next time you arrive in the area, enter the Barsana Monastery to see what an Orthodox monastery looks like. It is worth a visit! But don’t forget to visit also the wooden church on the hill, because it is one of the 8 wooden churches in Maramures, a UNESCO heritage site.