Completed Project

Basil the Great Church

Krajné Cierno, Slovakia

Basil the Great Church belongs to a small and precious collection of wooden churches in the rural Carpathian mountain region of Slovakia, a significant border between Eastern and Western Christian faiths. Built in 1750, the church contains architectural influences from both Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic ecclesiastical design. The Greek Orthodox community built the church, in Lemko-style, using timber covered on the outside by wood shingles. Influences of Western religious architecture can be seen in the unique conical cupolas varying in scale and size on top of the structure. The iconostasis, a carved and painted wooden screen displaying religious iconography, separates the sanctuary from the main hall and the vestibule and is one of the most distinguished features of the church. The church still conducts services for a small congregation.

2000 World Monuments Watch

Over the decades, moss, lichen, and insects damaged and destablized the wall timbers, the wood in the iconostasis, and the shingled roof. Significant leaks developed, allowing moisture to infiltrate the building and mar its interior finishes. Dust and candle wax have also left the iconostasis in poor condition, obscuring the religious imagery. In 2001, WMF started the conservation process by eliminating the problematic insects, humidity, and vegetation. Structural analysis was conducted to implement the technical specifications needed to stabilize the church. Local resources and the expertise of local craftsmen were used to create hand-hewn wooden cleft shingles to conserve the roof. The walls were shored up and other damaged elements were replaced. Among the imagery conserved on the iconostasis were the paintings depicting Christ the teacher, the virgin and child, and two of the apostles. To prevent water filtration, drainage canals were dug and a long-term maintenance plan for the building was put into effect by the end of the project in 2004.

Basil the Great Church, like the other wooden churches, blends in harmoniously with its immediate natural landscape. The forest made wood a plentiful resource for local artists and craftsmen who built the church. Both the church and the finely decorated iconostasis were forms of artistic and religious expression of the Greek Orthodox society in the eighteenth century. Conservation of Basil the Great Church helped re-establish the importance of local craftsmanship and artistry, aspects that define the cultural heritage of the region. The importance of traditional building arts in conservation can now be appreciated by the current congregation and visitors of this splendid church.

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