Architecture. The basis of Rusyn society throughout its entire existence has been the village. Therefore, what can be considered original Rusyn architectural monuments are to be found in villages. Until the twentieth century, the basic building material among Rusyns was wood, whose versatility is no less than that of stone.
In domestic architecture the functionally rational approach determined style. Hence, the most important elements for houses were strong walls and roofs, in order to protect dwellers from the severity of the changing mountain climate, to preserve internal heat, and to guarantee the long-term storage of provisions. Virtually until the second half of the twentieth century the basic model for domestic dwellings throughout most of *Carpathian Rus’ was a tripartite structure, consisting of an entry vestibule (sini/sien’/pitvor), the living quarters (khyzha/perednia khyzha), and pantry (komora). The structure was constructed from large beech or oak logs with a four-sided sloped roof covered with straw sheaves.
The interior walls were covered with clay and white-washed. Along the outside front and one side wall was a wide porch supported by carved posts. In the living space, just to the left of the door, was an earthen stove; under the window a large bed; to the right were benches; and in the center a table. Small windows punctuated the front and side walls under the porch; neither the entry vestibule or the pantry had any windows. This was the basic model for houses, although in the *Lemko Region, *Presov Region, and among the *Dolyniane (lowland dwellers in *Subcarpathian Rus’) the form of traditional houses has varied with regard to the relative size and layout of the three parts of the structure. Also, the roofs may have been covered with wooden shingles instead of straw, especially in *Maramorosh county and in parts of *Spish county. From this basic tripartite structure the so-called long house (dovha khata) evolved with the addition of elements that resulted in a rectangular-shaped structure. Among the elements added, usually beyond the entry vestibule, were: the stable (stainia); threshing floor (pelevnia/boisko/stodolia), which sometimes also housed farm machinery; a shed (shopa); and along one side of the entire length of the structure a narrow storage area (polovnyk/pelevnyk) for hay, straw, and grain.
Only in the far eastern and far western parts of Carpathian Rus’ did a significantly different domestic architectural style evolve. Among the *Hutsuls at the eastern edge of Subcarpathian Rus’ there existed the so-called grazhda, or homestead with an enclosed courtyard (khata z grazhdoiu). This was an architectural complex composed of a house and farm buildings linked together by a high wooden wall. The result was an enclosed architectural space, usually in the form of a square, with a single large gate providing the only entry way into the complex. The house was on the northern side of the complex with its windows facing into the courtyard. The farm buildings (stable, sheep-fold, pantry) were located along the other three walls of the courtyard. A few of the Hutsul homesteads had a covered courtyard, of which one part near the house was well maintained (paradnyi podviria), while the other part was left for work (zadviria) connected with the adjacent farm buildings. This architectural complex reflected well the settlement pattern of the Hutsuls and their livestock-raising economic activity, operated and carried out by large families whose several generations often lived within a single homestead (grazhda). Somewhat similar to the layout of Hutsul grazhda are domestic dwellings in a few Rusyn villages (Osturna, Litmanova, Nizne Repase) in far western Spish county.
Domestic architecture was limited in its development to the modest utilitarian needs of the Rusyn peasant. Hence, it was in wooden church architecture that Rusyn artistic and creative talent found an outlet. Rusyn wooden church architecture is conventionally divided into the Boiko and Lemko styles, from which derive the so-called Gothic style in Maramorosh county as well as a group of Baroque-like churches. The Hutsul churches form a separate style.
Based on their ground plans, all wooden churches can be categorized according to two basic types: (1) the tripartite type, in which the anteroom (babynets’), nave, and altar are in a single west-east axis; and (2) the Greek-cross type, which is characteristic of the Hutsul churches. The tripartite type churches are, in turn, subdivided into: those with a single log-frame in which all three parts are encompassed by the same set of logs; those with a double log-frame in which the anteroom (babynets’) and nave have one set of logs and the altar another; and those with a triple log-frame in which the anteroom, nave, and altar each has its own set of logs. The Hutsul Greek-cross churches are constructed of five sets of log-frames.
Boiko-style churches fall into the tripartite type with a triple log-frame, in which the central portion is higher than the other two. Each portion is covered by low square frames upon which is a tentlike steeple that diminishes gradually toward the top to form a pyramidlike structure. One can observe a gradual evolution toward complexity in the form of these steeples, from simple pyramidlike shapes to steeply sloped towers. A dominant element is the sloping gallery-eave (galeriia-opasannia) that encircles the entire church and protects the log-frame base of the structure. The Boiko-type church is best preserved in the upper valleys of the Uzh, San, Latorytsia, and Rika Rivers at villages like Uzhok, Sukhyi, Vyshka, Kostryno, Husnyi, Verkhnii Studenyi, and beyond the Carpathian crests in Galicia. The Boiko-style is clearly a variant of the oldest kinds of wooden churches built many centuries ago, both in the Carpathians and as well as in adjacent territories stretching from Slovakia in the west to Polissia in the north, and from Podolia in the east to the Danubian lowlands in the southwest. Under the influence of stone construction in cities the basic architectural style throughout the entire area gradually changed and new types of building emerged.
Among these new types of buildings was the Lemko-style church. Lemko-style churches are characterized by the unique and dynamic composition of their steeples, which grow higher and higher, from a tiny one over the altar to the several-storey central tower and, finally, to the extremely high western bell tower in the Baroque style. Moreover, the bell tower is not structurally related to the log-frame of the central nave and altar, but rather is constructed on a frame of vertical-standing logs. Lemko-style churches are most widespread in villages along the Upper Wisloka, Ropa, and Biala Rivers in the Lemko Region (Poland); along tributaries of the upper Ondava and Topl’a Rivers in the Presov Region (Slovakia); and along the tributaries of the Upper Latorytsia and Borzhava Rivers in Subcarpathian Rus’ (Ukraine). The monumental beauty of these Rusyn churches has long been recognized, so that from the 1920s to the 1960s several were removed from their original location to enhance the beauty of parks, as in Prague/Kinsky Gardens (the church from Medvedivtsi), Kosice (the church from Kozuchovce), and Bardejovske Kupele (the church from Mikulasova). Others were relocated to enrich the displays in outdoor ethnographic museums/skanzens, as in Kiev (the church from Kanora), Uzhhorod (the church from Shelestovo), Bardejovske Kupele (the church from Zboj), Svidnik (the church from Nova Polianka), Humenne (the church from Nova Sedlica), and Stara L’ubovna (the church from Matysova).
The form of Lemko-style churches gradually approached that of stucco structures of the western type found nearby. This development occurred spontaneously as well as under pressure from secular and church authorities. For instance, in Lemko-style churches roofs were constructed as single, two-sloped coverings with a small, decorative towerlet crown over the east-end altar. The entire structure was dominated by a bell tower in the Baroque style, as at Chornoholova, Roztoka, Podobovets’, Pylypets’, Izky, Bukovets’, and Huklyvyi in Subcarpathian Rus’. Such reconstructions usually date from the last third of the eighteenth century.
During the late eighteenth century a new school of woodworking also evolved, which built wooden “Gothic” churches in villages of southwestern Maramorosh county. Stylistically they belong to a group of similar church structures in neighboring Transylvania and northeastern Hungary. They were modeled on the epitome of that style, the stone masonry German Gothic church of Transylvania. In their refined form and construction, it is clear that the center of this new school of woodworking was to be found in the churches of Danylovo, Krainykovo, Sokyrnytsia,Steblivka/Saldobosh, and Oleksandrivka/Shandrovo in Subcarpathian Rus’. Characteristic of these churches is a steep sloping roof and a narrow tower and gallery over the anteroom (babynets’) topped by a steeple at the base of which are small decorative towers on the four corners of the gallery. The driving spirit behind the Gothic style was its vertical thrust and the virtual absence of walls, which were covered under the broad eaves of the roof and gallery. All Rusyn churches in the “Gothic” style are distinguished by a clearly defined geometrical form and an outline according to idealized rules.
The last group of Carpathian wooden churches are the Hutsul ones based on a floor plan in the form of a Greek cross. In Rusyn-inhabited lands there are only two examples, the Struk Church (1824) and the Church at Plytovate (1780), both in the large village of Iasynia. Built over a Greek-cross plan, the long interior space along the east-west axis is supplemented by two side interior spaces on the south and north sides. The side log-framed spaces are covered by sloping roofs; over the central log-framed space sits an octagonal drum covered by a tentlike roof crowned with a cross.The entire church appears to be a horizontal structure subordinated to a wide-eaved roof, which as it sits on extended corbel-supports looks like a large wreath that has fallen upon the walls of the frame. The origins of this style of wooden churches is unknown. From the exterior they resemble Armenian churches which, in turn, are based on Byzantine churches.
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Entry courtesy of Encyclopedia of Rusyn History and Culture.