Iza Valley is a region with enchanting and captivating scenery. Iza is one of the most important rivers in Maramures. It begins in the Rodna and the Batrina Mountains. The valley spans 83 km collecting hundreds of small rivers until it joins the Tisa River.
All along the Iza Valley are small villages dating back to before fifteenth century. The Iza Valley is home to villages known for their historical significance and their wooden churches. Some of the more notable villages are described below.
Barsana is 12 kilometers from Vadu-Izei. This village can trace its history back to the Bronze Age. Documents dating back to 1391 make mention of a monastery and a wooden church named for St. Nicolae.
The monastery was abandoned and the small church was removed in 1720. The church was later returned and additional painting was done in 1806 in the baroque style by Hodor Teodor. He used predominantly white, blue and red in his palette. The church is also home to several beautiful wood and glass icons.
The old monastery is now the site of a wooden church, built in 1992. The church belongs to a convent also located at this site. In 1991 the inhabitants from Barsana built a wooden church for the local Graeco-Catholics.
In addition to its history, Barsana is worth visiting for its beautiful traditional gates, friendly, hard-working people and beautiful scenery.
40 kilometers from Vadu-Izei is the village of Bogdan-Voda. The village takes its name from Voievode Bogdan I, a native of Cuhea. Bogdan-Voda has an important place in Maramures' history because it was the residence of the Voievode during the feudal period.
Archaeologists have discovered an ancient Christian cemetery on a feudal residence dating from the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Traces of one of the first stone churches constructed in Maramures have also been found here.
Bogdan-Vod's wooden church dates back from 1718 and inhabits the site of an even older church which was burnt down in the 1717 raid by the Tartars.
The St. Nicolae wooden church is made of pine and contains beautiful icons painted on glass as well as wood. It also houses a sculpted Bishop's throne, one of the most beautiful and valuable monuments in Romania.
Botiza is 30 kilometers from Vadu-Izei in the Botiza Valley, this village dates back from 1353. Its wooden church is named for St. Paraschiva and was built in the thirteenth century in the town of Viseu de Jos. In 1899 it was moved and rebuilt in Botiza. During its rebuilding, the church interior was painted in the Maramuresan style by Iuga Dionisie and his daughter Aurelia.
The church contains many icons painted on wood dating from the eighteenth century. You'll also find many icons on glass, most dating from the nineteenth century.
Botiza is best known for its beautiful and colorful rugs. Almost every woman in town is a weaver.
Along the Ieud River, 40 kilometers from Vadu Izei, is the ancient and beautiful village of Ieud. Archaeological discoveries show this village dates back to the Bronze Age. In 1365 records show that the village belonged to the Voievode Balc of Cuhea.
Ieud also has two distinctive wooden churches. "The Church on the Hill" was build in 1364 and "The Church on the Plain" was built in 1699. Both were built in the Maramuresan style from pine. These old wooden churches contain paintings on the interior walls as well as on canvas and wood and glass icons.
The wooden churches of Ieud served as the repository for some of Romania's most important historical documents. "Codicele de la Ieud" (the old manuscripts from Ieud) dates back to 1391. Other religious and historical documents include a breviary written at Targoviste in 1715, a missal written in Iasi in 1759 and a book of prayers written in Bucharest in 1743.
Ieud is known for the preservation of
its traditional customs as well as its traditional architecture.
The people here dress and act the same as they did hundreds of
years ago. Every year in July the people of Iued celebrate with
a multi-day festival of traditional culture called "Iued
Nestled along the bank of the Iza River, this village is 23 kilometers from Vadu Izei on Country Road 186. The first written document mentioning the village is from 1353 when the village was the property of Bogdan of Cuhea.
The wooden church in this village is listed as a historical monument. It was built in 1720 and was named after the Archangels Mihail and Gavril (Michael and Gabriel). The interior of this church was painted by Ioan Plohod, between 1823 and 1825. The church also holds many beautiful icons painted on wood and glass. These are of great artistic importance, painted in the traditional style of Maramures.
The valley covers a length of 40 kilometers. Along this distance are the villages of Mara, Desesti, Harnicesti, Sat Sugatag, Giulesti, Berbesti and Vadu Izei, where the Mara River flows into the Iza.
The scenery along the valley is enchanting as are many of the villages. Some of the villages are given more detail below.
This village is 20 kilometers away from Vadu Izei by National Road 18. The oldest document mentioning this settlement is from 1360. The document claims this village as the property of Dragos of Giulesti.
Desesti has a fine example of the traditional Maramures wooden church. It was built in 1770 and named "The Pious Paraschiva." The interior was painted by Radu from Ungureni and Gheorghe Tugravul, "The Painter" in 1780. The paintings were some of the finest ever done in Maramures. These paintings were restored in the mid 1990's.
This church also contains an excellent collection of painted icons from the nineteenth century on both wood and glass.
Giulesti lies 12 kilometers from Vadu Izei. Originally the village was claimed as the property of Prince Giula in a document dating from 1317. In a later document concerning Giulesti from 1364 is the first mention of a priest in Maramures, Giula's son, Mirizile.
In 1509 a church of stone was erected in the village. Another stone church was later built here in 1888.
In the small village of Mamastirea, next to and governed by Giulesti, is an old wooden church built on the site of a monastery. The ancient church bell, still true, was forged in 1679. The church was painted by Georghe, a painter from Desesti, in 1783. The church has a collection of many beautiful glass and wooden icons.
Unique to this wooden church is the painting found on one of its exterior walls similar to the painted monasteries in Bucovina. There was also an icon here of the Virgin Mary which some claimed could perform miracles. However, it was removed and placed in the monastery at Bixad for safe keeping.
The village is 16 kilometers from Vadu Izei. Harnicesti, which dates back to 1316, has a beautiful wooden church in the Maramuresan style. The church was built in 1770 on the site of an old monastery named for the birth of the Holy Virgin.
The church has a spectacular collection of icons. Three of these icons, "Intrarea In Jerusalim" ("Arriving in Jerusalem"), "Snaltarea Domnului la Cer" ("The Ascension") and "Buna Vestire" ("The Annunciation") have been shown extensively in exhibitions throughout Romania and abroad.
The Cosau Valley
The Cosau River, 15 kilometers in length, feeds life into the villages of Budesti, Sarbi, Calinesti, Feresti and Berbesti where it meets the waters of the Mara. Here are some of the least visited and undisturbed villages in all of Maramures.
The village is 24 kilometers from Vadu Izei. Budesti was first mentioned in a document by King Ludovic "the Great" in 1368.
Budesti boasts two wooden churches. Both are excellent representations of the architecture of Maramures and its variety. The church in the lower part of the village was built entirely of oak in 1643 and named for St. Nicholas. A specific characteristic of this church is its tower. The main tower is surrounded by four smaller towers. This was designed to signify that the church and its council had the right to punish those found doing wrong against the church or the village. These towers were built in a gothic style unique to architecture from Maramures.
This church also keeps the chain mail jersey and helmet of legendary outlaw Pintea "Viteazul" ("The Brave"), the Romanian version of Robin Hood. These articles were left here after the flight of the Tartars in 1717.
The interior paintings of this church are very expressive. It was painstakingly restored in 1760 by Alexandru Ponehalschi. The decoration of the alter is reminiscent of Catalonian paintings from between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The beauty of the glass and wooden icons complete the harmony of this splendid church.
Calinesti is situated 18 kilometers from Vadu Izei. The village has two wooden churches built in the local style. The lower church was constructed in 1663 and is named for the birth of Christ. It was painted by artist Alexandru Ponehalschi in 1754. It holds beautiful icons from the eighteenth century. The upper church, only called this because it was built on a higher hill, is made entirely of oak. This church was restored in 1784. During the restoration the painted interior was destroyed. The interior was repainted in 1788 by Nicolaus Cetinschi.
This village is 20 kilometers from Vadu Izei. Its existence was first documented in 1405. Sarbi's upper church was built of oak in 1532 and was named for St. Parachina. The paintings on this church's interior are of rare beauty. They were restored in 1800 by the painter Stefan Amachievici. There is also a fantastic series of icons on wood painted by Radu Munteanu in the eighteenth century.
The lower church erected in 1665 was also made of oak. It was originally built next to the site of an old monastery, destroyed in the Tartars last raid on Maramures in 1717. The interior painting in the church is barely visible from smoke and time, but the collection of icons is still well preserved.
Ocna Sugatag sits atop the hill which separates the Mara Valley from the Cosau Valley only 10 kilometers from Vadu Izei. The community dates back to 1360 when the main occupation here was salt mining. Thus the name of the village, "ocna," meaning salt mine. Around these salt mines have been found ancient gold and silver coins, providing evidence that salt has been mined here before recorded history.
At the beginning of the twentieth century the over-taxed mines collapsed, what was left were great pools of saltwater. Today, Ocna Sugatag is a popular health spa and the pools are now mineral baths.
Viseu Valley spans a 60 kilometers stretch of scenic countryside and villages known for their traditional folklore and historical value. The area is inhabited by Romanian, Germans and Carpatho-Russians. One of the most stunning valleys in Romania, the Viseu Valley is famous for its rare beauty.
This small village is 52 kilometers from Vadu Izei. Moisei dates back to 1365 when it was first presented to Blac Voda.
Moisei originally had two wooden churches built in the Maramuresan style. The first belonged to Vlanca and the second to the Pop Coman family. The second church was destroyed by the Tartars in 1717.
The Tavorul Negru Valley near Moisei is home to a monastery built in 1600 named for the Virgin Mary. The church was painted in 1699 but is now in severe disrepair, although above the altar are still rare, and valuable icons.
In 1911 a new church and a house with seven rooms for the resident monks were built. "The Sleeping of the Holy Virgin" as it is know, holds its annual celebration and pilgrimage on the 15th of August.
Moisei is a reminder of the atrocities that have befallen the inhabitants of this region by the Axis army troops at the end of the Second World War. In 1944, 31 villagers were taken hostage and massacred without trial. A memorial to these victims was created by sculptor Vida Gheza. He carved a monument composed of twelve columns around a table of stone, representing the traditional masks of the area.
35 kilometers from Vadu Izei along national road 18 is the village of Petrova. Evidence of this village dates back to 1411, when this village belonged to the noble Petru. The first church was built in 1670 but later burnt down in 1856. A new church made of stone was built that same year.
A bronze coin was found here in 1890. The coin has an effigy of the Roman Emperor, Traian and the inscription "Via Traiana."
Petrova's monastery was built on land donated by the family Petrovai from Petrova, near the Bistra River. Bishop Serafim, a member of the Petrovai family, resided at the monastery.
Borsa is situated at Maramures' eastern extremity, 80 km from Vadu Izei and next to the Prislop Pass in the Rodna Mountains. In 1365 King Ludovic gave Borsa to Balc (the noble Sas' son) and his brother. In 1717 Borsa was the site of the last battle between the people of Maramures and the Tartars. The fighters of Maramures, led by Popa Lupu Sandor were victorious in this final encounter with the Tartars who never returned.
During the fight, the village's church was burned, but was later restored. A new stone church was built in 1895 and stands today.
In 1774 Borsa was a commune and a parish, but the parish was divided into two parts. In 1653 the two sections united into one parish lead by Popa Ioan. The parish church was painted in 1775 by an anonymous artist.
Borsa is known for the development of mining and lumber industries as well as alpine tourism. There is skiing at Borsa and also places to rent equipment for various winter sports activities. Just above Borsa's alpine resort lies the National Reservation, Pietrosul Rodnei, a pristine alpine wilderness rising to an altitude of 2304 meters.
VASER: Se poate vizita cu mocanita (trenul cu aburi).
The Tisa river divides Romania from Ukraine. Here can be found some of the oldest settlements in Maramures with traditional Romanian and Ukrainian cultures side by side.
Rona de Jos
20 kilometers from Vadu Izei along the Rona River is the village of Rona de Jos. Rona de Jos features a wooden church constructed in 1655 from oak and situated on a hill. The church is named for the Holy Virgin's birth. The paintings inside contain beautiful religious scenes that were restored in 1793.
The church also contains unique icons on wood and glass, some of them dating from 1817, and painted by Ioan Plohod from Dragomiresti.
In 1652, Ioan Popa resided in the monastery in this village. The monastery was originally located on a large estate surrounded by forests and hay fields where ancient vases and even a grail of pure gold were said to have been found. The monastery and its land were confiscated by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but a small part of it remained the property of the Maramures Archdiocese.
Located only 7km from Vadu Izei, Sighetu-Marmatiei is a small town that lies on the confluence of the Iza and Tisa Rivers. This town has been continuously inhabited from at least the fourteenth century, probably for much longer. The town is often referred to simply as "Sighet" which comes from the Dacian word "Zeget" meaning "citadel."
Archaeologists, digging in Camara, have discovered tools made of stone which date from the Neolithic era. Many items have been found dating back to the Bronze Age such as sickles, swords and ceramics discovered in the Blidaru Valley. Another archaeological site, Dealul Cetatii (Cetatu Hill), has revealed similar Bronze Age artifacts.
Written documentation, dating back from 1334, state that Sighet was the place where people from all over Maramures would meet in order to discuss the problems faced in the region. The earliest documents from this time are signed with seals depicting an ox head.
Sighetu Marmatiei has a strong ecumenical history. One of the many stories is that of the Calvinist church in Sighet. This large yellow church stands at the western end of town. It began as a simple Orthodox Christian church. When the Hungarians took control of the region in the fifteenth century the church became their property. Later, when the Hungarians converted to Calvinism so did the church. Those practicing Romanian Orthodox Christianity built their own church in time and even through Romanian rule the great yellow church has remained Calvinist.
Sighetu Marmatiei is home to Romanian Orthodox, Calvinist, Catholic, Graeco Catholic and Jewish followers with many churches and a synagogue lining its streets.
Some museums and attractions located
in Sighet include:
-The Ethnographic Museum
-Folk Architecture Museum, situated on the Doboies Hill
-Archaeological Museum, including a section on the "flora and fauna" of Maramures
-Painting and sculpture collections
-Memorial House of Ioan Mihaly of Apsa, academician
-Memorial House of Alexandru Ivansiuc, writer
-Birthplace of Elie Wiesel, writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner (not a museum)
-The Museum of Arrested Thought, the former Sighet Prison
-and many others
Approximately 25km from Vadu Izei along county road Sighet-Satu Mare lies the town of Sapanta, home of the internationally famous "Merry Cemetery."
Sapanta was mentioned in documentation dating from 1373. This document determined the division between Sapanta and Campulung. Sapanta had a very old wooden church which fell victim to fire, but a new one was constructed in 1886 to serve the community.
Sapanta is large for a village and in addition to the "Merry Cemetery," the villagers are known for weaving "cergi" (wool blankets) of different sizes utilizing traditional and modern colors and patterns. Cergi that are for sale can be seen hanging from gates and fences along the road leading to the cemetery.
Sapanta's "Merry Cemetery" is known throughout the world due to the talents of local sculptor, poet and painter Ion Stan Patras. During his life, he created a great number of grave markers which are painted in distinctive "Sapanta Blue" and visually depict the deceased along with an often humorous poem about their lives, habits, personalities and how they died.
Ion's intention was to create a place of celebration for loved ones. He ended up creating one of the most visited attractions in Romania, as well as a truly unique site in the world.
Return to About Maramures and Vadu Izei