People from Maramures
have always been faithful to wood, carving it into all kinds of shapes: the plate they ate from, the shelter above their head, the church in which they prayed. Time didn't stand still and many things are made today of more modern materials. Still, where it smells like wood, people from Maramures
feel home and safe, while visitors stop in front of the old houses, gates and churches and admire them.
In the past, the houses in general used to carry a social mark. This is obvious from the decorations, but mostly from the inscriptions written in Romanian with Cyrillic or Latin characters. We can read names of craftsmen, owners, local rulers, priests etc which are meant to prove the oldness of the building and to convey them a greater value.
The element determining the indoor arrangement, both at material as well as ritualistic level, was the main beam. It ran along the rooms and connected the opposite walls, and by means of the small beams which were equidistantly placed over it, it also connected the side walls and, of course, supported the whole roof structure.
This main beam divided the house into two: on the right was the space for living and on the left side, the space for rituals.
The wooden gates from Maramures
are elements of architecture that convey an undeniable local identity to this region.
Medieval documents attest to the fact that only the nobility, the so-called "nemes", meaning free men, had the right to build gates. These noble people were under the direct rule of the royalty and not of the local authorities and thus, enjoyed different privileges. For example, if a malefactor was to hide in the house of a noble, he would be protected from the local authorities by the sign of the gate.
The gate jambs are the expression of the great myths of the Romanian folk culture. The motives sculpted in wood each have their own rich significance:
The twisted rope
represents the infinite, and the connection between the land and the sky.
is the symbol of God which gives life. He sees everything, knows everything, and, above all, he knows the ultimate TRUTH.
The tree of life
is a symbol of eternal life, of youth without old age.
The anthropomorphic figures were endowed with the power of protecting the house and family from the forces of evil. The folk beliefs hold the jamb of the gate to be a threshold between neutral space and the sacred space of the household. This is the reason why these protective omens were placed here, on the symbolic threshold.
Today, in Maramures
, you still can see old wooden gates, especially in the villages on Cosău Valley and in the Village Museum from Baia Mare and Sighet. The new wooden gates have decorations of recent inspiration, which have lost their initial significance, keeping only the aesthetic side.