the wooden church of Nizny Komarnik, outside Svidnik

The area around Svidnik has a range of beautiful wooden churches, too, some of which have great frescoes inside.

Half-an-hour further east, equally close to the Polish border, is Svidnik, another one of those towns where soviet-style architecture has left a mark. It is really a small town, yet, wide avenues separate the mono-block neighbourhoods, interspersed with poorly maintained shopping areas. The mono-blocks, on the other hand, have been painted over, and – important development, but only for palati-affectionados – where traditionally people would close in the balcony to provide an extra room, here the occasional balcony has been added on the outside of the building!

modern mono-blocks in Svidnik

with balconies added, instead of closed in (only for palati affecionados)

and laundry is always a thankful subject matter here

Soviet-style military mosaic

the church of Dobroslava

and from another angle, showing the three distict onion-dome towers

inside, the iconostasis, with half of the apostles, and all the way to the right the Last Judgement painting

Last Supper, part of the iconostasis

and the apostles, half of them

The Last Judgement, the treasure of this church, partly restored

Svidnik has its own share of wooden Greek-Catholic churches, even more than around Bardejov. And once again, the tourist office provides a map, with telephone numbers, just in case. But for the Dobroslava church, which is closed, of course, we don’t need the telephone: the priest lives next door, and is working his apple orchard. Reluctantly – why are they always so reluctant? -, he agrees to open church. First thing he does is pointing at a little basket, indicating he expects a donation to the church – and no coins, please. Then he switches on the lights, and starts an audio recording with sacred music, and eventually, a commentary in English about the church. Well organised, this! The church sports an almost complete iconostasis – just a few apostles missing – and the jewel in the crown, a fresco of the Last Judgment, one of my favourite topics in churches, especially the corner in which hell is depicted. Which, once again, has been creatively exercised here. More photos here.

transport in Ladomirova

and the church in Ladomirova

once again, from a different angle, as well, a curious structure

the church in Hunkovce, closed even on Sundays

None of the other churches we visit in the afternoon are open. The church in Ladomirova, with a variety of cupulas and a square bell tower, a later addition no doubt. The beautifully named Temple of the Protection of the Mother of God church of Nizny Komarnik we see from the distance only, bathing in bright sunlight. The church in Vishny Komanik, about as far north as we went, is surrounded by trees, and difficult to photograph. And equally closed.

the church in Mirola, Sunday service ongoing and people outside

and the one in Korejovce, also service ongoing, with parishioners outside

We continue the next morning, a Sunday. Reckoning that, on a Sunday, the churches will be open, all right – if not on a Sunday, when will they? And indeed, when we arrive at the church of Korejovce, there are lots of cars parked, also lots of people around the church. Mass – or is it Liturgy? -is being said, but with such a small church, and possibly Corona limitations, too, many worshippers have to do with a place outside. Which, for many, is actually quite OK, so they can keep up the social contacts with other parishioners without disturbing the priest inside. We decide that we, too, will not disturb the priest, and even though the church is open, we stick to the outside only. In Mirola it is not different, the church is open but not really, not for us tourists.

the wooden church of Bodruzal, UNESCO-listed

But phoning Helena, the custodian of the UNESCO-listed church in Bodruzal, actually works. Although she had been at Mass, she tells us that she came forthwith when she realised there were tourists at her church. And then she tells us to pay 10 Euros, and if we perhaps want to buy postcards or magnets of the church? And then she switches on the English recording, similar to the one the day before, about the church. Which is, again, wonderfully painted, not only the iconostasis, but also the walls, with another of these magnificent Last Judgments. This is why we come to see these churches! More photos here.

and inside the church, with a complete iconostasis

the door in the iconostasis, leading to the sanctury

the iconostasis paintings

and one individual, central painting, The Last Supper

and, of course, also a detail from The Last Judgement

the rather more modern church, eyesore in Svidnik

 

And just in case you hadn’t seen any of the wooden churches in the area, back in Svidnik is the post-soviet version, bright yellow and grey, not too dissimilar architecture to what we had seen so far…

the Galeria Dezidera Millyho, which has paintings of Mr Millyho, but also some graet icons

Also back in Svidnik we visit the local art museum, to see a few more icons, from the surrounding churches, as well as some 20th Century paintings from the region. A strange contrast, and also, once more, a strange museum visit, a bit like in Martin a week earlier: when we got there we were convinced that the place was closed, but no, our presence had been noticed, the entrance door was being unlocked, the lights switched on, and we were free to wander around. And when we left, lights off, and door hermetically locked again.

fabulous 16th Century painting of The Last Judgement, in the museum

and some gory details

busy little devils

and this is only the start of the punishment

and how about this for hell?

King Mikulas, 18th Century tempera

another Last Supper, also 18th Century

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