Monday, April 7, 2008

Interesting article on renovations to Ukraine's historic wooden churches

The Chicago Tribune suggests that efforts to improve or modernize Ukraine's wooden churches is in fact destroying them:

When Ukraine gained its independence, villagers embraced the return of religious freedom, but many viewed their wooden churches as eyesores—rickety, difficult to maintain and ripe for renovation or demolition.

"People stopped feeling that all of these churches have value—not material value, but spiritual or emotional value," Salyuk said. "Now, many people look at churches not as sacred buildings, but as houses which need to be rebuilt or renovated."

In many cases, those renovations make preservationists shudder. In the village of Stary Yar, 24 miles northwest of Lviv, a makeover of the 450-year-old Our Blessed Virgin of Pokrova, a Ukrainian Greek Catholic church, amounted to nailing tin plating painted yellow onto the wooden exterior. Inside, walls that had been covered with centuries-old paintings have been concealed behind particle board amateurishly decorated by a village artist.

"You can see this church is almost totally covered with metal, which makes it look like a submarine," said Rev. Stepan Kobasyar, whose diocese includes Stary Yar. "I can encourage the priest here and the parishioners to take the metal down, but I can't make them do it.

"This is the attitude of people who don't understand the value of a wooden church," he said.
This could be an interesting topic for further exploration. Here's the link in case anyone is interested!

1 comment:

S Gliske said...

The same issues exist in Poland. However, it seems preservation boards are working with the local churches to help. Also, the creation of "Heritage Parks" and using the churches for tourism is helping. See an article at

The article sites Sweden as the source for the idea.

Note, the church where my ancestors were from set up a website to fund their renovations

The area is a tourist destination for Germans, and a lot of the local people have immegrated to Germany--both facts result in extra cash flow to fund "true" renovations.

I wonder if tourism would assist Ukraine in funding "true" restorations, though there's the ethical question of balancing church vs commercial enterprise.