Wooden Churches of the Carpathian Mountains # 30 - Hărnicești, Romania
This Orthodox church stands on a small forest-covered hill in the village of Hărnicești in the Maramures region of northwestern Romania. It was built in 1770 on the site of an older monastery, and was dedicated to the Birth of the Virgin Mary. It is close to several other wooden churches in the Mara valley such as the one in the neighbouring village of Desești.
The church has a very irregular design when compared to other nearby churches in the region, and this is the result of a series of restorations and additions which have occurred through the centuries. In the original design the tower of the church was considerably taller than it is today and the length of the nave was several metres shorter. The first major changes were made in 1893 when a newly enlarged narthex (entrance room) was added on to the end of the nave, and when the old interior wall between the nave and the original narthex was removed the nave was also enlarged in size.
In 1911 a porch was added on the southern side of the nave with an extension made to the roof line with wooden pillars added to support the weight. The original decorated entrance portal on the western side was moved to the southern side to form part of the new entrance area. In 1942 the original iconostasis was replaced with a larger modern one, and in 1972 the tower was moved from its position above the end of the nave to a new position above the extended narthex.
The interior contains several valuable icons, the finest of which are 'Ascension to Heaven', 'The Annunciation' and 'Entry into Jerusalem'. These icons have been displayed internationally as part of touring exhibitions of Romanian folk art. The rest of the interior is not particularly memorable, so the local villagers have compensated for this by decorating the church both inside and out with white scarves and colourful flower arrangements attached to the eaves.
The addition of the bright scarves and wildflowers adds much to the overall impression given by the church, since these decorations are not seen in such abundance on other churches in the region. Around the exterior walls of the church below the eaves are the framed pictures of the Stations of the Cross which are used by worshippers during religious services. On the southern exterior wall of the nave there is a 'clapper', a wooden board which is struck to create a high-pitched sound which traditionally would have called the villagers to masses. A decorative wooden cross with a shingled roof covering it can be seen beside the pathway on the way up to the church from the entrance gate by the road.
The village of Hărnicești is directly on the main road between Sighetu Marmației and Baia Mare, so a number of buses pass through daily. Sighet is a good place to use as a base for exploring the region of Maramures and it has good onward transport connections by train and bus to other parts of the country. There is also a border crossing to Ukraine just north of the city if you would like to see some of the wooden churches in the neighbouring Zakarpattya region.