Summary report


The northeast region of Slovakia is underdeveloped and depopulated. This fact has also a negative impact on the technical state of monuments which include sacral monuments belonging to different churches especially the Greek-Catholic and Orthodox. Owners of other types of monuments (war cemeteries, manor houses, settlements or technical monuments) are mostly self-government or the private sector. Especially for small municipalities which are also ethnically and religiously mixed, it is difficult to maintain good condition of monuments, despite financial support from the state implemented through various grant programs. In many cases there are parishes with up to 100 inhabitants, situated in border region with Ukraine and Poland. They do not have the financial resources for maintenance and repair of the churches. And while the owner (the Church) does not collect entrance fees (or the entrance fees are only voluntary), this is absolutely insufficient to finance not only the operation but also the maintenance and necessary preservation. These were the main reasons for initiating a bilateral exchange activity with the Norwegian organization Riksantikvaren. Activity was realised and supported by the Bilateral Fund in frame of the program SK05 Preservation and Revitalization of Cultural and Natural Heritage, financed by EEA grants and the state budget of the Slovak Republic. The main objective of the bilateral exchange activity carried out in August 2017 was to get inspiration from Norway –  see how are the monuments preserved and managed, expecially stave churches, compare of protection legislation and system of cultural monuments in Norway and Slovakia, get information about their effective use for economic development of region and join promotion of cultural and natural World Heritage sites, with specific aim to get details about the Stave Church Preservation Programme elaborated by Riksantikvaren. The necessary information was obtained during the study visit of Slovak experts in Norway, held on 22-25 August 2017 in cooperation with Norwegian experts and other responsible persons especially administrators of churches direct on the site. Experts visited a total of 17 wooden churches (of which 16 are stave churches), the churches were selected with aim to represent various types of owners – the Society for the Conservation of Historic Norwegian Monuments, the Church or local municipalities with aim to obtain the widest possible range of information. For the consistency of the information obtained a questionnaire was used. The beauty of Norway’s cultural and natural heritage was also captured by professional photographers from our partner organization the Carpathian Horizons, civic organization.  


A significant impulse was the presentation of Riksantikvaren (Directorate for Cultural Heritage, similar to the Slovak Monument’s Board) with its headquarters in Oslo, which was the project partner of the Slovak Monument’s Board in project “Pro Monumenta – Maintenance by Prevention” realized in Slovakia during 2014-2016. The Norwegian experts Noelle Dahl-Poppe, Leif Anker and Vegard Bergård explained the Slovak experts in detail all questions regarding the functioning of the monument care system in Norway. The significant difference is that the Riksantikvaren activity is conceptually implemented on the basis of precisely defined priorities – approved Stave Churches Preservation Program, The Ruin Conservation Project, Archaeological monuments etc. with a precise budget and time period within which should be achieved the goals, with involvement of all types of owners. The priorities include, for example also the Polar Heritage (Svalbard and Jan Mayen Islands, Antarctica – protected by separate laws) and Indigenous groups, national minorities and cultural remains. Particular attention was paid to the presentation of Stave Churches Preservation Program, the co-author of which is another Norwegian expert Sjur Mehlum. This program was realized in years 2001 – 2015, preceded by so-called “Medieval Project”, realized in 1991-1999 on 230 buildings/monuments in Norway, based on the assumption that older and original techniques and materials are better than they are today. The program solved the extensive reconstruction and rescue of all 28 wooden stave churches, regardless of ownership. Archaeological research and dendrochronology of all churches were also realized due to necessity of accurate dating of the churches. Most of the craftsmen were already trained through the Medieval Project in frame of the educational / training program for craftsmen – systematic training on resources, techniques, materials due to priority – ensure the local competence for sustainability – to teach local craftsmen how to take care of wooden churches. Reconstructions in Norway are primarily carried out by local exchanges of damaged materials and elements. Comprehensive replacement of structures (whole roofs etc.) is considered as drastic intervention that changes the look and the impression created over hundreds of years. In the framework of the reconstruction, besides the stave churches were realized also reconstructions of their surroundings, fencing, bell towers, cemeteries, building of tourist information system etc. The main goal was to put into operation all stave churches until year 2015, the total budget for the years 2001-2015 was 130 million Norwegian crowns, of which 25 million NK were used to restore interior paintings and sculptures. For Slovak experts, it was interesting to learn that the Riksantikvaren – Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage which administratively belongs under the Ministry of Climate and the Environment, is also in charge of topics such as Climate Change and Cultural Heritage as well as education in craft skills or public awareness of the value of cultural heritage. Since 1984, it has been organizing every year an international wood conservation course (more information:


A number of findings resulted from visits of wooden stave churches in Norway and consultations with local administrators. In view of the broad spectrum of interest of Slovak experts Daniela Galandová, Maroš Prejsa and Miroslav Buraľ representing the Carpathian Wooden Churches, non-profit organisation and Miroslav Porochnavý and Peter Filakovský from the civic organisation Carpathian Horizon, the findings listed under cover the communal and also ecclesial affairs:

Architectural interpretation of churches. Stave churches in Norway are presented as a separate group of wooden churches (“stavkirke”) which were more than a thousand in the past, nowadays 28 left and are preserved. Wooden churches in the Carpathians (Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine and Romania) are of “log” structure. It would be appropriate to focus more on the promotion of two types of log structure wooden churches of the Eastern rite in Slovakia – “Lemko” and “Boyko” oriented on history.

Determining the churches dates of construction. In Norway, it consists of a combination of data from historical documents, marginal records, archaeological and dendrochronological research. In Slovakia, the dating of the construction of churches is usually taken from church schematics (history books and records from church visits), which often contain incorrect data, since the age of the building is derived from the last reconstruction of the church. The use of the dendrochronology method is not used in Slovakia at all. According to the Norwegian experience, it would be desirable that the dendrochronological research in Slovakia could be a mandatory condition from monuments board before start of any reconstruction of the churches. t the same time, we learned from Norwegian colleagues that, in addition to the destructive technology of dendrochronology, there is used also non-destructive technology.

Fire protection of churches. In all stave churches in Norway was realized the fire protection (in frame of the Stave Church Preservation Programe financed from state budget) which does not disturb the historic objects and responds to any possible cause of fire. At the same time, portable fire extinguishers are installed in the buildings, thus avoiding damage to the wooden beams. Of course there is strict prohibition of smoking in the churches and their surroundings. In the churches and their surrounding, a camera monitoring system and night lighting are installed.

Other activities in the surroundings of churches. The municipality is committed to maintaining the authenticity of the entire environment as part of the construction process, with special permission being required for all new buildings. The truth is that, unlike the experiences in Slovakia, that around these stave churches are situated no inappropriate buildings. The electricity line is underground, which makes the beauty of the wooden churches and the surrounding countryside. The cemeteries at several churches are used for burials. The exchange of gravestones is realized while respecting the significance and importance of the church. Massive grave objects do not exist, only decent stone gravestones. On the graves, if they are flowers, all only living and not artificial. Of course, there are architecturally well-built and located storage facilities for tools.

Visitors centres. An integral part of the most churches are visitors/information centres established either in traditional houses near churches or in architecturally well-situated new buildings. Besides complex tourist information centres offer also local products and souvenirs made off in local community. Visitors also have social facilities / toilets that allow them to visit comfortably nearby churches and other attractions.

Organization of entrance, entrance fees and photography. In all stave churches in Norway visited by Slovak experts the entrance fees were collected, almost everywhere through cash (ticket) or by bank card with transparent registration of revenues from entrance fees. The height of the entrance was not the same even if the churches were owned by the same organization or community of believers. What is decisive for price-making is the fact whether the church is on the main tourist route or away from it. The rule is that children under 16 are completely free, as well as retirees. Discounts are used for group or families. The entrance is organized during the main tourist season (lasting from 15 June to 15 August during school holidays but most of the churches extended the season until September) provided by a guide that is stably available during the opening hours in the church. The entrance fee is 50 to 70 NK (between 5 and 7 EUR). Outside the tourist season and opening hours (agreed in advance) is the entrance charged by 300 to 700 NK (33 to 70 EUR). There are published mail and telephone contacts to guides on the websites. The photography is allowed in most churches (without flash), it is considered to be the free of charge promotion on social networks. The whole problematic of entrance fees in Norway solved as part of the bilateral exchange activity will be presented to the Greek-Catholic Archbishop in Prešov which covers the most of the wooden church owners in Slovakia. The aim is to have a system and a rule that the operation of wooden church (guide, cleaning, insurance, energy ….) must be paid from the entrance fees and also to provide a reserve for repair and maintenance. Only regular care and regular operation will provide additional quality services for visitors with a positive impact on the development of local communities.

Personnel.  The most repairs in Slovakia are carried out by external construction companies, there is no follow-up to personal capacity building, acquisition of craft skills – training program, no local structures are secured. Maintenance prevention is rarely applied. In Norway, regular maintenance and repairs are carried out by trained local craftsmen. In addition the church ensures the personnel for guiding the church during the tourist season. Staff costs are covered by entrance fees. It’s entirely different in Slovakia, therefore accessibility of wooden churches in Slovakia should be one of the priorities, at least during the tourist season. However, it is essential to provide qualified staff for the providing of guide services for example by students of the Faculty of Theology or in co-operation with municipality or non-profit sector by more intensive using of volunteers or so called activation works (for unemployed people).

Support of minorities culture. One of the priorities identified by Norwegian Riksantikvaren is the priority Indigenous groups, national minorities and cultural remains systematically protecting the cultural heritage of one indigenous Sami group as well as the cultural heritage of another five national minorities. This priority includes also education aimed for new immigrant groups. Preservation of the material cultural heritage of minorities in Slovakia (where belong the wooden churches of the Eastern rite) is not a special priority in the monumental care system, nor in the grant program Repair your own house managed by the Ministry of Culture of the Slovak Republic. The Culture of National Minorities Program managed by the Office of the Government of the SR concerns only on intangible heritage. Another regular financial support in area of ​​culture through the Prešov Self-governing Region under which administratively belongs the majority of the wooden churches of the Eastern rite in Slovakia, is not primarily focused on preserving the cultural heritage of minorities, but mostly supports only cultural events. The fact is that the situation in Slovakia is insufficient for for the comprehensive preservation of the minority heritage for the future. Also, due to often other priorities of financially underestimated budgets of municipalities and communities, there is a real risk of destruction the cultural heritage of minorities also due to the assimilation by the majority population. There is absolutely lack of prevention by the maintenance of monuments, especially the monuments of minorities (Ruthenian, Jewish etc.) in Slovakia, especially in ethnically and religiously mixed areas. Smaller municipalities which have also the problem with personnel do not see the need to protect monuments of local importance (through generally binding regulations that they have the option of approving), they perceive this possibility as a burden.

Cooperation of all subjects. Although classical municipal offices in small villages as we know them in Slovakia they are not in Norway at all (self-government is carried out by larger communities), it is clear from the whole system as organized that the preservation of stave churches is necessary for everyone. They bring benefit to students who can work there as guides, local businesses take care of regular maintenance and repairs, accommodation and catering facilities are improving their services, all local people have jobs. But it thanks to the fact that it is one of the priorities defined at national level. There is real cooperation in Norway which is facilitated by sophisticated marketing, joint promotion of cultural and natural heritage, not only in UNESCO sites.


Conclusions and experience acquired during the bilateral exchange activity with the help of Norwegian experts of Riksantikvaren were presented to the public, especially to the owners of cultural monuments thanks to the seminar “Sacred and Profane – wooden architecture” organised in Humenné. The team of experts was complemented by other experts Vasiľ Fedič, Jozef Fundák, Miroslav Strakoš from the Vihorlat Museum in Humenné presenting their activities in area of restoration the sacral and profane traditional architecture and experts Branislav Rezník and Pavol Ižvolt from Slovak Monument’s Board who presented the results of the Pro Monumenta program realized in 2014-2016 in cooperation with Riksantikvaren. One of the topics was also the Stave Church Preservation Program elaborated by Riksantikvaren and the presentation of Slovak experts focused on findings acquired during the bilateral exchange activity in Norway. During the seminar the photo exhibition “Stave Churches in Norway” was opened and will be presented to the public in the premises of Vihorlat Museum in Humenné until 31 October 2017. Before the summer tourist season 2018 will be installed in the premises of the wooden Greek-Catholic church in Šmigovec while it is still without its original iconostasis.

Summarized by Daniela Galandová

Karpatské drevené cerkvi, n. o./Carpathian Wooden Churches, non-government organisation

Supported by a grant from EEA Grants

Co-financed by the State budget of the Slovak Republic