Wooden Churches

Ordinary Hutsul church was easily recognized. It did not consist of wowed part, nave and sanctuary. This type of church came from either from the top of Athos or Mezhygirsky Monastery from Kiev. The triangle dosed cross and sanctuary shape had been copied probably at the beginning of 17th century to the orthodox monastery in Maniava. The cross form plan might have been copied from Armenia. There were suggestions that the churches with dome roofs from 13th and 14th century built in Halych, Lviv, Przemyśl and Vasyliv were simply copied.

Hence, Hutsul churches were built on the cross plan with one or three or even five quite flat domes. They could be found in Delyatyn, Kolomyya, Kosiv, Bili and Chorni Oslavy, Bystrytsa and Zelene.

Since late 18th to 19th century the churches were built on the same places as the previous ones. So it is sometimes even the third building in the same location. More of them origin from the 20th century. Some of them like church of Born of Virgin Mary in Vorokhta are dated of 1620 and Annunciation of Virgin Mary in Kolomyya -1587. But those dates are not documented properly.

In Dolyna and Kalush there are some churches from 18th century with the triangle closed cross and sanctuary shape. Also in Lviv district and Yavoriv area there could be found such churches.

Hutsul, like other Ukrainian folks on former Rzeczypospolita were traditionally Greek- Catholics. In 1946 Soviets shut down the Uniate Church and the only solution for Hutsul was to join the Orthodox Church.

It is interesting that there were not so many churches destroyed by Soviets. The only one known is the church in Dolhopol pulled down in 1965 and restored in 1994 based on archive photographs.

Saint Basil the Great Church form 1895 in Kosiv Moskalivka was a museum of folk art during the Soviet era. Some of the Hutsul churches were locked for several years or from time to time used. Most of the crosses located near routes were destroyed. In eighties church of holly Parascheva (St Anna) from 1718 located in Kosmach was burnt. The church of the sleep of Virgin Mary from 1800 in Zhabie and the church of the introduction of Virgin Mary from 1912 in Palyanytsa were destroyed in the World War II. Nearly a hundred objects still exist.

Nowadays, the religious situation in Hutsul land is relatively complicated. There are several branches of the Orthodox Church such as Russian Orthodox Church (Patriarch at Moscov), Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Patriarch at Kiev) with patriarch Filaret, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church. There is also Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church united with Roman-Catholic Church after Brest Union. There is also Jehovah Witness quite active in last 15 years and other protestant churches.

It is worth of mention that the west of Hutsul land over Prut and Bystrytsa Nadvirnyanska rivers is dominated by Greek-Catholic Church believers. Bukovyna has many Russian Orthodox churches, and the mid of Hutsul land over Cheremosh and Rybnytsa is dominated by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church believers.
Churches and monasteries of Yaremche region

Church location

The church location and its surroundings

The founders of the churches were typically local communities with their vicar or rich farmers. Sometimes, a farmer or a noble gave the land under the church. The church was very often donated.

It was situated in the center of village, normally in the valley, sometimes on the hill directly over the road or valley. The church always was oriented in the east-west direction. But there are some of them exceptional. For instance, church in Kolomyya was probably rebuilt in the beginning of 18th century or church in Yasinya, where moved from Yablunytsa in 1871.

The churches are surrounded by local cemeteries and fenced. The old fences are exceptional. Currently they are made of steel net. The entrance is recognized by the gate. There are sometimes very old gates. Occasionally, near the church the old stone altar can be found.

The surrounding of the church includes a wooden belfry in most cases. The exceptional are churches on Hutsul Bukovyna, where belies are made of building blocks. Some of them can be found also in Galicia.

Around the Hutsul church it can be found veil and some memorial crosses or a wayside shrine. Moreover, it might be an old church school house.

Space form

Program and a space form

The arrangement of the Hutsul church is based on the cross. And it is a stretch cross. The heart of the church is a nave. A part place to the west called babynets is connected to the nave. The altar part called vivtar is directed to the east. The wings called prytvor positioned in north-south axis. Over the center the octogonal cylinder called osmirka is placed over which the dome is mounted.

The smaller churches with the central form are built in late 18th and early 19th century in Loyova, Delatyn, Dora, Zelena, Bili Oslavy), Yasinya and bigger size from 19th century (Tatariv, Mykulychyn, new church in Vorokhta). Some of them are already pulled down.

In Hutsul Bukovyna there are three parts churches with three domes from late 19th century.

There are also churches built on a normal cross shape design. They mostly lie in the Pokuttya-Hutsul border, south of Prut river. In Kolomyya it is such cemetery church rebuilt in 1709, in Verbovets, and in Rozhniv the church of the Holly Virgin born. The last two are with five domes but in Smodna and in Stopchativ – with three domes. Also in Bili Oslavy a church of st. Anna from 1746 rebuild in nineties.

Till 19th century the size of a single church was based on the size of the forearm (ca. 46 cm). The oldest churches have the size of approximately 4.50 m. Such churches can be found in Vorokhta (the older one), Yamna, Cherhanivka and Stobidka.

In 19th and 20th centuries the size of the single church proportionally increased due to the growing income of the founders. Another extensions such as pastoforia were added. On the south flank ryznytsa (diako-nikon), prosfor for bread and wine, and on the north prothesis.

In 19th century the older churches in Cherganivka, Zelene, Delatyn and Dora were made bigger.

The size of the largest churches is about 9 m (20 forearms) – like in Iltsi, Sokolivka, Kosiv Monasteryska, Kosmach (SS peter and Paul from 1906) and Pistyn.



The bottom of a church. The foundations were made of stones and later on with masonry.

The walls were completed with half of the logs called protesy and jointed. The churches were built by the local carpenters, who worked in teams. Well known names among them are Kovbchuk (Herasym from Babin and Les from Yavoriv). Both Babin and Yavoriv were well recognized in the past with their skillful carpenters.

The lower part of the wall is called pidopasanie and the higher part is identified as verkhopasanie. The higher part was covered with shingle.

The walls were built with a conifer timber, cut usually in the winter. The largest logs were at the

Roofs and domes
Over the church there was a pitched roof made of rafters. The octagonal cylinder is mounted over the nave. There was a dome built on it with the wooden bars called perekhrestya. The ceiling is made of wooden ceiling joists along and across the roof. On top of the roof there were built rods with small bubbles. All of them are pinnacled with decorative crosses.

The roofs are lengthen and placed over 2 m above the ground, but there are not pillar arcades.

The roofs and the domes are covered with shingle. The ends of the shingles were sometimes triangle or diamond shaped (St. Anna church in Kosmach – early 18th century). At late 19th century the roofs were covered with steel plates.

Windows and doors
There were typically rectangular four elements windows. In older churches quite squared, in newer even 12-15 elements with one glass, which were permanently dosed. Sometimes, there were some arch windows in newer churches. The [windows were generally placed at the higher part of the wall (verkhopasanie) and in the walls of the octagonal cylinder. In the postoforia the windows were strengthen with the iron bars.

There were two entrances to the church one from the west and the other from the south. In 20th century they occasionally added the third entrance from the north. There were additional doors to the sacristy. There were one wing wooden doors made from the bars and placed in the frame fixed to the walls. Later on, two wings light plated frame doors were made. In the glass church porch also the doors with the glass in the upper part were implemented.


Decorative details

The early churches were built as the ascetics buildings. The artistic details were made barely on the structural elements not only in 18th century churches but also in late 19th and early 20th century ones. Basically, only the wooden rods were featured. On the other hand the steel crosses on the tops of the roofs and domes were very impressive.

The door frames were quite simple with the some signs and inscriptions sculptured, like in Kolomyya (with some inscription from 1709), in Zelene (inscriptions on the frame of the church doors and the belfry doors), in Yasinya (inscriptions on the frame of the Strykovska church doors and the belfry doors inscriptions and plants and geometrical shapes sculptured).

From time to time, inside the churches there are some oil painted plaques related to the restorations and polychromes. The outside walls are mostly contemporary oil painted. The green color is trendy, but there are yellow, bronze and blue painted churches. Nowadays, the churches are covered with the decorative steel plates. On the contrary, inside the churches are genuinely ornamented. The structural elements are not extensively featured; only some arches are specifically decorated (Strykovska church, Yasinya, old church in Vorokhta, Delatyn, 18th century church of Holly Virgin born): Sometimes, the nave column top is styled.

Most of the temples are colorfully painted inside. The polychrome shows the Apostles and the Saints, some geometrical, decorative compositions sometimes illusionist frescos with decorative motifs like bordures or plant ornamentations. Among them, there are some gospel citations or prayers. The polychromes are not so old, like those from 1938 about the 950th anniversary of the Russia baptism or contemporary.

A very precious carver’s ornamented iconostases are from the baroque period. Regular iconosta-ses have four and five floors. They are colorful and golden and silver plated.

There are also the old pulpits similarly styled as the iconostases. The exceptional one is in the Trinity Church in Mykulychyn, sculptured by Kosiv artists.

Iconostases, additional altars and the paintings are decorated by embroidered white cloths called rushnyky. The church flags and procession crosses made in wood in wood technique are polished. The floors are full of carpets and today a lot of color lamps are used. But the church inside still can be calm and peaceful.

The access to the churches is not so simple. First, one should ask for a priest (svyashchennyk, pan otets), the usher or sacristan called palamar. They might have a key to the church but normally are busy or can live far away from the church. The tourist ought to behave with respect. Women should use proper clothes with long sleeves and do not entered the church wearing trousers or short skirts. Men are advised to wear trousers and long sleeve shirts. The tourist should ask for a permission to take pictures or recording a video.

National style

Ukrainian national style

The wooden Hutsul churches built on the plan of the cross has been an inspiration for Ukrainian nation identity since the late 19th century. The social and cultural transformation has created a search for the national designing style. These could have been seen till the end of the World War II in the construction of the formal cross plan of the church with one or more domes over the roofs all over the west of Ukraine.
New churches in national style were designed by professional architects mainly from Lviv. The proportions have been saved and churches in Yablunytsa over Bily Cheremosh (Bukovyna, 1933-36), Bystrytsa, Vorokhta (1920s), Zarichya (near Delatyn, late 30s, designed by Levynsky) are those examples of the national style, as well as an extraordinary church in Shepit over Suczawa (1908) with a marvelously modeled roof.

New churches

New Hutsul churches

New churches are built very often in the villages where the believers belong to different branch of the church. There are villages with orthodox and Greek-Catholics In those rural communities the churches are existing not so far one from the other. Usually, one is an old church and the other is newly built. On the other hand, like in Stebne over Bilyi Cheremosh the old church exists in Bukovyna part on one bank of the river, while on the other Ga- lida side a new one is built. The historical pressure is strong due to the fact that for centuries the river was a border between Rzeczpospolita and Bukovyna, and later Galicia and Bukovyna. Nowadays it is still the boundary between the counties and the districts.

New churches are located on the hills, and built with still plated roofs, and can been seen for miles. There are smaller than the old ones but some of them are quite large as in Semakova (Bukovyna), Stebne (Galicia), Kosmach, Woronenka, Yablunytsa and Palyanytsa. The smallest churches can be seen in Perekhrestne or Dzembrona.

Steel plated roof

The oldest church with steel plated roof in Brustury is from 1831. Some of them were built in 19th century, resembling Kosiv Moskalivka (1895). There are still about 70 wooden churches in Hutsul land but only 4 of them have not got steel plated domes (Vorokhta, Kotomyya, Yasinya and Dora). That process took place over the last years.

Maintenance problems

Last year’s changes created new conservation problems. One of them is an evaporation of the wooden elements under the steel plates. The moisture and the mould can damage the old wooden beams. The modem siding can transform completely the view of the church and the surrounding area.

New refurbishment forms, which can reshape the old structures, are risky and ruin the relicts of the past like in Bili Oslavy, where the church from 1746 has been redecorated, or the belfries in Mykulychyn and Tatariv have been reshaped.

There is a lack of the state policy of cultural and national preservation of monuments and relicts. The local communities also are not conscious of the drawbacks. In such a way and due to the financial difficulties the old heritage of Hutsul might be lost.


The wooden churches are the most typical manifestation of regional cultural heritage, and perhaps the most valuable source of contribution to the treasury of world art, historical monuments, the root of much aesthetic pleasure and finally – the most attractive tourist object.

The wooden churches can be found in all regions of Western Ukraine, both in cities and mountain villages. They are unique examples of wooden buildings. They charmed by the beautiful architecture and interiors decorated with extremely bright.

Traditionally there are five styles of wooden churches of the Carpathians: Lemkivskyi, Boikivskyi and Hutsulskyi are named after the ethnic groups of the Ukrainian Carpathians. Gothic and Baroque show the relationship with the West. The churches of Boikivskyi and Lemkivskyi style were raised with the help of former Ukrainian way of temple-building in the center of which is the principle of triple: the church has three parts, three tops and three trunks. Ancient temples of a house are typical of Bukovyna.

The Carpathian wooden churches that have remained from ancient times are the best examples of Hutsul building. An old Christmas song of Hutsulshchyna says the church is built on the place where Christ’s blood fell upon the earth. Every village, even the smallest, had its own church.

To this day hundreds of temples were preserved wood, built over the centuries-ХІV ХХ: in Transcarpathians – 118, in Ivano-Frankivsk region – 50, in Lviv’s region – 28, in Ternopil’s region – 115, in Chernivtsi – 53.

The oldest churches in Hutsul region:

  • Church of Annunciation (1587) in Kolomyya
  • Holy Spirit Church (1598) in Rohatyn
  • Church of the Assumption (of S.Barbara, 1623) in Pistyn village near Kosiv region
  • Church of Birth of Virgin Mary (XVII cent.) in Vorokhta
  • the church in the village of Rosilna (XIX cent.), built without a single nail.