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The Wooden Church

The oldest Orthodox church in Tîrgu-Mureș can be found at 13, Metropolitan Andrei șaguna street. The Wooden Church was built between 1793 and 1794 with the help of trader Hagi Stoian Constandin who bought the land, proceeded to obtain all the necessary building approvals from the City Council and personally financed the works. The need to build an Orthodox church was born in the context of the unification of part of Romanian priests and believers with the Catholic Church. Orthodox and Greek-Catholics found themselves in need of building separate places of worship. Thus, two churches were built in the same period, next to each other. As opposed to the Greek-Catholic one, the Orthodox church used cheaper building materials, but it is an architectural success, as it harmoniously combines Romanian rural traditions with Baroque influences. The plan is longitudinal, ending with an asymmetric polygonal apse and divided into a porch, pro-nave, nave and altar. The steeple can be reached from the porch. The building system is a traditional Romanian one: walls are made up of thick beams that dovetail in the corners. The nave has a semi-cylindrical archway supported by consoles. The shingled roof is unitary throughout the entire surface of the nave and pro-nave, but forms a separate entity above the apse, adapting to its polygonal shape. The tower is covered by a roof made up of successive bulbs, typical for Baroque churches. According to an inscription on the inside wall of the altar”™s apse, the church was painted in 1814, more than twenty years after it was built. This time gap may be explained by the lack of financial means the Romanian Orthodox were confronted with, as they were deprived of rights and privileges by the authorities. Some researchers, however, noted a series of paintings dating since before 1814. Some of the scenes in the nave seem of inferior quality, which could mean they were made previously, by a less endowed painter whose name was lost. The two craftsmen which are known thanks to the pisania are Popa Nicolae and Bon Vasile. They belong to the painting school of Feisa (Alba county). Their style combines elements of Byzantine paintings in a personal interpretation, in the manner of local Romanian schools. The lack of naturalism in the depiction of characters is due to the high degree of abstraction of the shapes, typical for Byzantine painting which uses flattening and lack of volume.  It can also be characterized as popular art due to the schematic, almost naive, manner of depicting characters' faces. This unique combination, specific to paintings in Romanian wooden churches, makes it valuable through originality. The scenes in the altar”™s apse, authored by the above-mentioned painters, are very diverse: “The Resurrection of Lazarus”, “The Assumption”, "The Holy Crucifix”, “The Blessing of the Apostles”, “The Descent of Jesus into Hell” etc. Another element that is essential to the church is the rood screen which separates the nave from the altar. It is divided into four vertical registers. The lower one includes the king doors and four large icons of Saint Nicholas, Virgin Mary with the Child, Jesus and Archangel Michael. The doors are decorated with sculpted and gilded vegetal motifs and six painted medallions. Above the doors and icons lie a series of smaller panels depicting scenes of Jesus”™ life: “The Birth”, "The Baptism”, “The Resurrection”, “The Ascension” and of the life of Virgin Mary: “The Presentation at the Temple”, “The Annunciation” or “The Assumption of the Mother of God”. The uppermost level of icons includes the portraits of the twelve apostles. The superior register of the rood screen is made up of a sculpted cornice of gilded vegetal forms. On the middle axis a large wooden cross can be seen, with trilobite arms, bearing the image of the crucified Christ. It is unknown when the roof screen was done, but it is also painted in the traditional Romanian style. In the summer of 1866, Mihai Eminescu passed through Tîrgu-Mureș on his way to Blaj. He is believed to have spent the night on the porch of the wooden church and that it was the sound of its church bells that inspired him to write "the worndown bell moaned sickly in the tower and the bell board banged against the steeple's poles".... Bibliography: Ioan Eugen Man, Tîrgu-Mureș, istorie urbaní£ de la începuturi pâní£ în 1850,Tîrgu-Mureș, Ed. Nico, 2006, pp. 210-211. Traian Popa, Monografia orașului Târgu Mureș,Tîrgu-Mureș, Cultural Foundation"Vasile Netea", 2005 (first edition 1932), pp. 234-244. Nicolae Bí£ciuț, Nicolae Gheorghe sincan, Biserica de lemn „Sfântu Arhanghel Mihail”, Ed. Nico, Tîrgu-Mureș, 2006.