11 February 2011

Mountain Churches

We haven't traveled very widely in Ukraine because it's a big country and the roads aren't always easy to drive on. For the most part, we've been in the south-western corner of the country, in the Carpathian mountains. In this remote, quiet part of the world, we've been amazed at the beautiful wooden churches that dot the hillsides and hamlets.
There are many shrines, too, often by themselves in a field or by a twist in a stream. They can be ornate or quite simple, like this one. Often, cars will be pulled to the side of the road near them, as people offer gifts or go inside to pray. It's a nice, intimate way of inhabiting a religious space, I imagine.
During one morning's drive, we crossed a region made up of a few valleys in the very inaccessible part of the country between Bukovel and Kolomyia. The houses in this area were adorned with elaborately stamped tin trim along their rooflines and dormer windows. We pulled over by this church, which I thought was amazing. The entire building is covered in tin, save for the wood at the bottom. If you can make it out, you'll see that there are designs in relief covering the entire surface.
This church was nearby - simpler, but still beautiful. I love the multi-tiered rooflines and the not quite symmetrical spires.
A small, fancy roadside shrine. Inside, a carved counter with images of grapes set below bright paintings of saints. The gaudiness of it was a little comedic, given its diminutive size.
In the more western part of the mountains, there were a number of spires like this one, which reminded me of New England steeples - but, of course, with the rounded top.
One characteristic of many Carpathian churches is a shiny, gold plated spire. Some of the larger churches had quite a bit of gleaming surface area, and they were visible from a great distance. This parish obviously wasn't as showy, though they were brave enough to choose such a great orange paint.
We saw a lot of larger, stone or cement houses of worship, but they weren't as endearing. I like the log construction at the base of many of these, and the compact, squareness of the design.

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