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New Europe

Day Fifty-six: Viseu de Sus, Maramures

Michael Palin - New EuropeHad I not been at Moldovita yesterday, the wooden church at Ieud would have been one of the most delicately beautiful buildings I've seen in a very long time.

Built in 1364, it has two precipitously pitched, shingled roofs, one above the other, which sweep down and around the church, embracing and protecting it like sou'westers in a gale. At one end a tower rises some 30 metres, capped with a tapering witch's hat turret. The whole effect is of inspired simplicity.

The inside of the church, rather overwhelmed by its roofs, is intimate, dark and cave-like. Its walls and beams are painted with the same collection of haloed angels, saints, Incarnations, Last Judgements and Ascensions to heaven as at Moldovita, but as these are earlier the technique is simpler and less flamboyant.

I meet a ruddy-complexioned local man, Filimon Gheorge, who's there with his pale, intense son Ionut. They're both musicians.

Candles are now being lit all around the graveyard as families of those buried gather around their graves for the service. As Ionut puts it, it's a celebration of death, as important to these communities as celebrating birth and marriage. After a death, he tells me, everyone else in the family must wear black for six weeks. During that same six-week period male members of the family cannot take part in any festivity, drink alcohol or have sex and must go to the church every Sunday to pray for the souls of the departed.

As the priest, now with gold-embroidered robes over his black cassock, emerges from the church to begin the mass, there is something very affecting about all these families standing quietly, respectfully, alongside their dead.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: New Europe
  • Chapter: Day Fifty-six: Viseu de Sus, Maramures
  • Country/sea: Romania
  • Place: Ieud
  • Book page no: 136

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