There may be teeth in the walls of the wooden churches of Southern Małopolska

The region in Southern Poland called Małopolska has several UNESCO listed wooden churches. These churches are scattered through six different villages which aren’t reachable by public transportation and, since HOB and I don’t drive, we were in quite a pickle.  I mean, it’s not like I would ever want to miss out on a UNESCO church so I googled relentlessly until I found a wooden architecture tour out of Krakow and booked it.

Smart move.

We were the only people on the tour (our guide said people rarely sign up for it); it was just us, our gentlemanly driver and our guide Kasia, who designed and researched the tour herself.

wooden

Our first stop was at a church-turned-museum called Muzeum im. Władysława Orkana w Rabce-Zdroju (typing the name this museum gave me consonant-overload exhaustion, excuse me while I go fan myself).

cheesemold

I’m glad we visited the museum first, not only because of the fine Gothic design of the building, but because the museum’s collection illuminated many of our subsequent experiences on the tour.  For example, this cheese mold, used by farmers to form sheep’s cheese into fanciful shapes.

marymagdThis sculpture, a fragment of an altarpiece, depicts Mary Magdalene’s horror of the crucifixion of Christ.  Notice the scull-like appearance of her face and teeth.

toothwall

Speaking of scary teeth: our guide borrowed a key to open a closet in the museum and showed us where former parishioners had wedged teeth into the cracks of the log walls. Many people suffered from toothache and left their teeth in the church in hope of relief.  (Take a moment to be grateful you live in an age of modern dentistry).

church

It was a treat to visit the Parish Church of the Nativity of the BVM of Libusza, another wooden church c. 1500, since the interior has its original painted décor and we were allowed to photograph it.

interior

I was interested in how similar the Gothic painted ceiling was to some of the Art Nouveau frescoes in the church of St. Francis in Krakow.  Perhaps the Art Nouveau painters made a pilgrimage here for artistic inspiration.

churchdetail1

churchdetail3

churchdetail2

It’s pretty clear these were made using stencils.

crane

While driving between churches we saw nesting storks on the side of the road.

debnocloseup

The final, and most beautiful church was in Debno.  It was built in the late 1400’s without nails—just cleverly joined wood.  The church also has the original, unrestored and yet perfectly preserved wall paintings.  (No photos were allowed inside—AARGH!)

larch

I adore the personal scale and warmth of wooden churches. This church in Debno is constructed of Larch wood.  Don’t know what a Larch tree is?  I didn’t either, until our guide Kasia pointed one out and I took a picture of it.

rosary

These rocks outside the church form a big rosary that the parishioners walk beside while praying.

hut

Nearby the Debno church we stopped to buy sheep’s cheese from some farmers—they were smoking the cheese inside this hut.

obligatory

Obligatory photo of me in front of the cheese-producing sheep.

spawater

On our way back to Krakow we stopped at spa town called Szczawnica, known for it’s medicinal mineral water.  (In Poland the  government pays for sick people to go to spas while in my country the current administration is striving to take basic health insurance from 22 million Americans).

cheese

Back at our apartment, we unwrapped the cheese to find it was made in one of those fancy cheese molds we saw earlier in the day at the museum.  Oh man, was this cheese stinky!  I munched on it during a long, extremely stuffy bus ride the following day and I’m certain every person on that bus was saturated in the tangy, smokey odor but I’m not in the least bit sorry.

 

How we got to the Wooden Churches of Southern Małopolska: our tour drove us from Kraków .

Where we slept: Apartamenty Astur.  Price: €42 for a double. Recommended: yes.

29 comments

  1. nice report! Thanks for sharing:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for following along! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a unique and gorgeous place! Love the pictures. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree and as you can see, we got really lucky with the weather too. Our trip included a lovely long lunch in the countryside by a lake.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. How wonderful to get to see inside one, thanks for the visit 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our ongoing struggle as church loving bloggers: getting inside AND getting pictures!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lol, I forgot to say the taking of photos as well, as actually getting into the church 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. good choice

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I wish we had several days to see these sights but we were lucky to have at least one!

      Like

  5. have you ever been to the skansen museum in sanok?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I hadn’t heard of it but I just looked it up and it seems wonderful! When were you there?

      Like

  6. Good photos. Reminds me of the wooden churches in Maramures in Romania.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Oh my goodness, I just LOVED the wooden churches in Maramures (actually I loved Maramures in general). I’m still in agony that I accidentally deleted the photos from all my blog posts there. Did you get a chance to see the frescos inside Deseşti,church?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Don’t remember that church in particular, but I did get to see the painted monasteries in Bucovina. Wooden churches are also common further north. Real shame about your photos! Visiting Maramures was stepping back in time.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I really love the painting especially. It reminds me of the folk art I’ve been admiring in Scandinavia. Left to their own devices, maybe people naturally cone up with Art Nouveau style? Bummer that you couldn’t take photos in the other place. I always wonder why photography is so restricted in places that are hard to get to. I’d think they would want to encourage visitors. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We could both go back to grad school for art history and write a thesis called “The Natural Progress of Western Art History Tends to Art Nouveau”. We’d totally make tenured professors with that one!

      I’m grateful for your recent travels in Scandinavia since I haven’t been there yet and you are making me long to soon (just wish it was cheaper!)

      Like

      1. We went because we found super cheap fares! As long as you don’t drink or eat fancy meals, it’s not so bad. It is so easy to get around, uncrowded, and most everyone speaks English.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. These are so joyous and so intimate — accentuates what so many ancient churches elsewhere lost when Puritan iconoclasts decided such exuberance was ungodly.

    Love the techicolor aspect, less Art Nouveau to me, more homely and naive, like the Scandi feel Claudia mentions above, or that seen on traditional Romany caravans (now largely relegated to museums, sadly).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can never bear to think of the great art and architecture lost to iconoclasm and intolerant political regimes……

      Now you are responsible for sending me down a rabbit hole of googling caravans all morning, thanks A LOT. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s all part of the service! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Fascinating, illuminating post. Looks a very interesting bit of the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Guy. How is your post-travel life treating you?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All good! Moved to the UKs second city Birmingham, where we are enjoying the cafe scene and pretending to job hunt.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Hmm. Cheese-producing sheep and teeth wedged into the wall. Poland knows how to attract and dispel me all at once.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cheese was smoky and salty and the teeth….were creepy!

      Like

  11. Charming churches with a lot of character. Ooh, those teeth scared me!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No wonder they keep the tooth-closet locked!

      Liked by 1 person

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