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Wooden church from the village of Shelestovo

🕒 Date of last update of the article: 17.02.2024 at 5:54 p.m   |  🖋 Author: Viktor Shatrov

One of the best examples of Transcarpathian church architecture of the past is the church of the Archangel Michael of the eighteenth century from the village of Shelestovo, Mukachevo district, which is a decoration of the museum exposition of the Transcarpathian Museum of Folk Architecture and Life in Uzhhorod. Folk architects built this temple to the glory of God, where the soul and faith of our ancestors were forged. The contemplation of the man-made exquisite harmonious image of this pearl evokes admiration and a sense of national pride.

Шелестівська Михайлівська церква в Ужгороді

Photos and video of the wooden church from the village of Shelestovo

Brief overview

🗺 Location N48°37′13″ E22°18′27″
🔰 Founded 1777
⛪ Style Lemkivskyi
↔ Transported to Mukachevo 08/05/1928
↔ Transported to the open-air museum in Uzhhorod In 1972
🛠 Restoration works 1969-1972
🏛 Status Architectural monument of national significance
🧭 Distance from the center of Uzhhorod Near
🚙 Road for Car, on foot
🏕 Stop with a tent No
🏡 Housing nearby Uzhgorod
☕ Cafes and shops Uzhgorod
🌍 Address Str. Kapitulna, 33A, Uzhhorod

Detailed description of the Shelestovo St Michael’s Church in Uzhhorod

In Transcarpathia many sights of sacred architecture have been preserved – wooden churches, bell towers, chapels, each of which impresses with the wise and perfect engineering, constructional, architectural and artistic techniques of their construction. Built according to traditional methods, they not only vividly reveal the natural talent of the builders and their artistic abilities, but also testify to the common material culture of the Eastern Slavs, as their architectural and constructive features are closely related to the monumental construction of Kievan Rus.

One of the best examples of Transcarpathian church architecture of the past is the 17th-century Church of the Archangel Michael from the village of Shelestovo, Mukachevo district, which is the centrepiece of the museum’s exposition Uzhhorod Skansen. The church was built in 1777 in the village of Shelestovo (now subordinated to the village council of Kolchyno) in Mukachevo district. In 1927, it was moved to the city of Mukachevo to be preserved as a monument of national construction, and in 1974 it was installed on the territory of the museum. The church organically fits into the environment of the museum village. Its slender silhouette is clearly visible on the hill surrounded by trees.

The Shelestovo church is an example of the Lemko church building school. The folk craftsmen managed to create an integral architectural composition of the church, which combines traditional forms of the Boyko type (three-division, arrangement of log cabins on one axis, multi-tiered hipped roof) with the Lemko type, the main stylistic difference of which is the shift of the height dominant to the bell tower with a baroque top above the western log cabin of the Babynets. The genius of the folk builder managed to combine the two styles (hipped and Baroque) into a single coherent architectural composition that still surprises us with its beauty and perfection.

For the construction of churches, they have always used selected wood – slender and tall. The walls were built using the log technique from thick oak beams (15-40 cm), with dovetailed crowns at the corners. The church has a two-storey plan, but is divided into three sections: narthex, nave, and altar. It is rectangular, with equal-width log cabins of the narthex and nave and a narrower log cabin of the altar. A church of the Eastern rite is always clearly orientated with the altar to the east.

The ceiling of the eastern log house (altar) is hipped with two folds. The ceiling of the central log house is twofold: the nave is hipped with three folds, and the narthex is flat, covered with boards. A bell tower was built above the narthex (Babinets) (its height together with the narthex is 22 m). The tower is two-tiered, square in plan, and of frame construction. The support pillars are supported by transverse beams of the narthex walls, connected by a system of braces and beams. The slender quadrangle of the bell tower is covered with shingles. It smoothly develops into a gallery with openwork carvings in the lower part. The tower culminates in a cupola with a lantern topped with a baroque dome with a wrought-iron cross.

The roof of the church has a complex configuration. The rafters are covered with solid formwork, on which an oak ploughshare (formerly shingles) is stuffed. The roof wraps around the entire perimeter of the church and rests on the crowns of the log cabin, which are cut with steps. Under the common roof of the church on the southern, western, and northern facades of the log house (along the narthex and nave) there is an arcade-gallery. Its supporting structures are made of profiled oak pillars with struts and horizontal spacers.

The cupolas of the altar and nave are tent-like with creases. Externally, each room of the church is crowned with baroque cupolas that rise rapidly from east to west, giving the entire architectural composition exceptional dynamism. The architect of the Shelestovo Church generously used the traditions of folk construction, but in his artistic and architectural solution he showed a remarkable individual artistic talent, harmoniously combining a clearly defined and functionally justified vertical division with horizontal lines of halls and baroque interceptions.

A sturdy oak single-leaf door with a wide carved jamb leads into the church. The nave, well-lit by four windows, is contrasted with the semi-dark narthex, a place where the faithful gather for worship and prayers. The entrance to it is through a cut-out arch made in the wall. The ends of the wall beams that form the arch are artistically carved and supported by two profiled columns. The ceiling beams of the narthex are supported by the wall. Their ends served as brackets for the choirs. A staircase was built in the nave on the north side to access the choirs.

The compositional centre of the church’s interior is a four-tiered iconostasis decorated with carved ornaments consisting of a vine as a symbol of Christ’s faith, ears of wheat and other species of Transcarpathian flora. The iconostasis is the artistic and functional core of the building, an integral part of the interior of the Eastern rite churches. There are three doorways in the lower tier: the single-leaf deacon’s gate and the double-leaf central royal gate, richly decorated with carvings in the form of vines, with medallions depicting the evangelists who preached the word of Christ to the whole world.

The iconostasis, decorated with floral carvings, contains icons from the eighteenth century that were transferred to the museum in 1975 from the church in the village of Kolochava. The icons are arranged in four tiers. It is likely that they were painted by two folk artists. Four icons of the first (vicarage) row belong to the brush of one of them. Each of them is made on three pine boards glued together and fastened with parallel mortise screws. The icons are painted with tempera colours and differ from the others in the contrast of white, black and red colours. However, thanks to the silver halos and background, blue chiton, orange mafia, and white shirt, the colour of the icons is significantly softened.

The icons of the second (feast), third (apostolic), and fourth (prophets) rows were painted by another master on glued pine boards, fastened together with vertical mortise dowels and covered with a layer of white glue and chalk glaze. They have a lighter and softer colour. They were painted with cinnabar (light red), soot (black), burnt sienna (dark red), Berlin glaze (light blue), white, and ocher. The halos and background are silvered and decorated with embossed floral baroque ornaments.

Among the religious art objects in the nave, folk paintings occupy a special place. They, like the icons of the iconostasis, were created by unknown masters and vividly reproduce their social consciousness, Christian morality, and testify to the high level of folk culture of the time, the outstanding artistic abilities and creative capabilities of the common people. The master, as a representative of the working peasantry, invested his understanding in the artistic interpretation of religious images and subjects. His icons do not depict canonical unearthly faces of saints, as professional artists do, but living earthly people with their joys and sorrows. They are like his fellow villagers. That is why the Ukrainian face type is so clearly visible in the vast majority of icons. The icons depict a lot of household items, jewellery, and even details of clothing of local origin, and the saints are surrounded by the Carpathian nature, which was native to the folk painter.

The exhibited icon “The Last Judgement” (eighteenth century) is a testimony to the close intertwining of the phenomena of social life with religious themes. The icon was an integral part of the interior of every Eastern rite church, revealing the essence of the path to salvation through suffering and trials. The idea of the icon is based on a well-established pattern: the composition unfolds in horizontal tiers. In the centre is a symbol of justice in the form of a scale, the upper part is reserved for biblical figures, the lower for earthly ones. The literary source for the recreation of the plot was, first of all, the holy scripture. At the same time, the folk artist does not forget to highlight the political enemies of the Ukrainian people, both distant and close in time – Turks, Tatars, and representatives of the Catholic Church. In addition, the author revealed the class consciousness and aesthetic preferences of the rural labourer. He sent to hell as sinners the birov (village headman), a tavern keeper, a drunkard, a miller, other rural exploiters, and those who violate healthy folk morality. In the painter’s mind, the sins of heaven were transformed into earthly ones, and he opposes them, resorting to a naive, but not devoid of folk humour, form of depiction.

The interior of the Babynets and the altar exhibits artistic monuments and religious items of the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries that have artistic, historical and ethnographic value:

  • carved wooden candlesticks;
  • speakers for the iconostasis decoration;
  • wooden chandelier (“candlestick”);
  • A device (“klepach”) for performing a church ritual;
  • objects of religious art (icons, sculptures, crosses, banners);
  • The clergyman’s vestments;
  • other church attributes.

In general, the Shelestovo church is filled with impeccable proportions, beautiful harmony, and beautifully crafted artistic details.

How to get to the Shelestovo Church in Uzhhorod Skansen?

 Walking route

🔰 Start From the Uzhhorod Castle
🚶 Walking distance (via Kapitulna street) 350 meters
🕒 Approximate time 5 minutes
⬆ Rise Mostly without ups and downs

On the map

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Віктор Шатров

Historian, publicist, blogger, public figure

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Author of the article: Viktor Shatrov

Number of articles: 1100+

Knowledge of languages:: Ukrainian, English

Favourite quote: “Travelling – the only thing that makes you richer

He was born and lived all his life in Uzhhorod. He graduated with a gold medal from Uzhhorod School No. 1 named after Taras Shevchenko (now Uzhhorod Lyceum named after Taras Shevchenko). He studied at the History Department of UzhNU, graduating with honours in 2009. He worked as a senior researcher at the Transcarpathian Museum of Folk Architecture and Life, a lecturer at the East European Slavic University.