One of the places I love most in Romania, an all-seasons country, is the county of Maramureș, in the north. This is due to the amazing craft-work gems created here, that I am sure everyone will love. For those who know this area, you can guess why this Romanian part is called „The Wood Country“. It is because Maramureș County is famous for its wood-crafting: from the small art pieces to the impressive wooden gates and remarkable architectural edifices. One of those incredible establishments is the Bârsana Monastery, a wood treasure.
One may struggle to decide which artistic wood production is the most remarkable. I personally admire the wooden gates the most. Similar to an arc of triumph, the wooden gates are independent constructions. They are built mostly out of oak wood. Four vertical pillars (building three arches) and one horizontal represent the main structure of such a wooden gate. The horizontal pillar unites the structure. On top of it, a roof is placed.
Although you don’t have to look very far in Maramureș to find a wooden gate, one of the villages, Mara, hides some of the most impressive ones. If you have the chance to visit this place in northern Romania, you should look for the wooden mill. This old construction is placed in a picturesque landscape.
You may wonder why are these constructions so special. While stone and rock are the materials that can endure for centuries without any damage, wood is different. Depending on the type, the conditions in which it was dried, and the climate, wood usually survives only up to 200 years. This is why these admirable compositions have an even greater value.
The symbolism of the gates is also contributing to the uniqueness of the artistic compositions. Every crafted motif has its own significance. For example, the infinity is represented by a twisted rope; the tree of life is a symbol of endless life and endless fertility. It's not only that the designed elements have a decorative purpose; they often have a legend or a tradition behind them.
There is another interesting fact about these gates. They are a testimony of historical reality and a representation of the feudal system, present in this part of Romania until the 20th century. How was this historical picture transported in the creation of the craftsmen? Whereas the lords were allowed to build high and monumental gates, the simple peasant only constructed small and modest ones. The complexity of the crafted symbols is a testimony of these practices as well.
Passing through these wooden gates also had a particular significance: the man was supposed to pass first, followed by his wife. Before going to war or work, he had to pass under the gate. Upon his return, the passage was supposed to ensure that all illnesses were healed. As the folk belief goes, the man was purified before getting back to his family. Rich in the local legends, this region nurtures a common belief that the oak wood should only be cut during the full moon in order to keep the house safe from misfortunes.
The fame of the wooden artwork has impressed even talented artists like Constantin Brâncuși. One of his greatest works, the Gate of the Kiss was inspired by the artistic composition from Maramureș County, the so-called Wood Country in Romania. Additionally, if one finds himself in this stunning part of Romania, they may cherish the Săpânța Cemetery, where death is joyful, visit the Sighet Memorial, or even go back in time with the Mocanița train.
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