The Deseşti Church is representative for the eighteenth century Maramures architecture. The manner in which the remarkable mural and the iconostasis were made is post-Byzantine. There are several controversies on the exact dating of the church. Tit Bud dated it in 1770 and Alexander Baboş in 1780, when the inscriptions discovered by historians attested to the painting of this place of worship. The paintings cover all three classic rooms: the altar, the nave and the narthex. The inscription states that the painting of the church was paid for by the Boyars of the village.
Part of the painting is attributed to Alexander Ponehalschi, and the other to the artist Radu Munteanu, a native of the village Ungureni of Lapus. The iconostasis is divided into three registers. There are 14 icons of outstanding value in the church, including one created by Radu Munteanu with the face of Agia Paraskevi, who is also a patron saint of the church.
The two painters chose the style for the altar the canons of Byzantine painting, who reserved this space for the depiction of the Virgin and the heavenly liturgy. The most important painting in this part of the church is that of the Virgin Mary, represented in the Orans position, according to the old Latin prayer “Ora pro nobis”.
The Virgin medallion is surrounded by the faces of the evangelists. On the altar’s tympani we find the Archangels Raphael and Gabriel. Other extremely beautiful scenes are the Women at the Tomb of Jesus and that of the Angel at the Holy Sepulchre. These scenes are representative for local community members and their hopes for resurrection.
The painting of the nave is dedicated mostly to Old Testament scenes.
"The Church of Women"
An exceptionally beautiful part is the narthex, where women are attending the Holy Liturgy according to Maramures traditions. For the Greek Catholic Church in Deseşti, this space is called the “women’s church”. The most impressive part is the painting of the Last Judgement, located on the eastern wall. Jesus on the throne dominates the entire ensemble, in which one of the central elements is the River of Fire, which flows into the mouth of the monster Leviathan and where the sinners are tormented.
With enough humour, among these we find șpanul sau comitele, and the county lord, with whom the residents of Deseşti probably had many misunderstandings. Another interesting part is that in which Moses leads the nations’ divisions to the Last Judgement. Some people noted by the author are Jews, Germans, Turks, Tatars or French.
Travel info: The distance Bucharest - Deseşti is 633 km and between Cluj-Napoca and Deseşti it is 190 kilometres.
Photo credit: George Trandafir, touringromania.com