HISTORY TALKS...

Istebné's wooden church

THE NAME of the Orava municipality of Istebné clearly indicates that some time ago a large fortified settlement stood in its current location. In old Slavonic, the word “istba” means some type of fortification. After this fortification ceased to exist, a village emerged whose residents worked mainly as farmers and cattle breeders throughout the Middle Ages.

THE NAME of the Orava municipality of Istebné clearly indicates that some time ago a large fortified settlement stood in its current location. In old Slavonic, the word “istba” means some type of fortification. After this fortification ceased to exist, a village emerged whose residents worked mainly as farmers and cattle breeders throughout the Middle Ages.

An important monument of Istebné – and of all Orava – is the small wooden church shown in this postcard. Originally, only a chapel stood here but later it was slowly built into a church so that it is likely that some time after 1689 the building looked as we see it here.

It is no surprise that the church is wooden, as this region has always been among the poorest in Slovakia and any material other than wood was considered a luxury. The fact that even such a modest wooden church was initially too costly for Orava only proves how tight money was in this region. The church emerged only gradually thanks to financial gifts made by several families of squires and collections solicited from abroad.

The exterior construction alone is of value but the interior, for example its frescoes, are beautiful and significant. The chalice made from wood – like everything else here – is quite rare. The Istebné church is not the only wooden one in this region: others can be found in Tvrdošín, Zábrežie and Leštiny. The picturesque construction can be appreciated on this postcard dating back to the beginning of the 1930s.

With a more detailed look, it can be seen to what extent wood was a part of all construction in Orava. The church is completely wooden and a big part of the bell tower is of the same material; the inconspicuous shelter which is probably for spring water is wooden, as is the small bench and the stairs leading to the church, except for the sidewalls. And in the foreground of the photograph, stored lumber can be seen as well.


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