Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

From the World Heritage inscription:

The wooden churches of southern Little Poland bear exceptional testimony to the tradition of church building from the Middle Ages. They have also been preserved in the context of the vernacular village and landscape setting and related to the liturgical and cult functions of the Roman Catholic Church in a relatively closed region in central Europe. They are exceptionally well-preserved and representative examples of the medieval Gothic church, built using the horizontal log technique, particularly impressive in their artistic and technical execution, and sponsored by noble families and rulers as symbols of prestige.

The history of Poland goes back to the unification of the Christian lands and the constitution of the kingdom in the 10th and 11th centuries. Churches have been of particular significance in the development of Polish wooden architecture, and an essential element of settlement structures, both as landmarks and as ideological symbols. They were an outward sign of the cultural identity of communities, reflecting the artistic and social aspirations of their patrons and creators. The nine sites in southern Little Poland represent different aspects of these developments.

This is a serial site of churches in nine different villages which compromise the world heritage site. They are:

  1. Archangel Michael (Binarowa)
  2. All Saints (Blizne)
  3. Archangel Michael (Debno)
  4. Blessed Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael (Haczow)
  5. St. Peter and St. Paul (Lachowice)
  6. St. Leonard (Lipnica Murowana)
  7. St. John the Baptist (Orawka)
  8. St. Philip and St. James the Apostles (Sekowa)
  9. Archangel Michael (Szalowa)

I visited St. Leonard’s in the village of Lipnica Murowana, which is the closest church in the world heritage site to Krakow.

These churches are only for hardcore world heritage site enthusiasts. They are very small. St. Leonard’s was small enough that you could easily walk around the entire building in under a minute. Lipnica Murowana was about an hour’s drive from Krakow and the church wasn’t even open. It wasn’t hard to find, but it did take some effort. Once you get to the village, just look for the big white church and park near there. The smaller, darker church is very close by and walking distance.

This might just hold the record for the most obscure world heritage site that I have visited.


Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

The Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland is a cultural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Poland. It is a Christian religious structure in various counties such as Nowy Targ, Gorlice, Bochnia, Brzozow County, Debno, Binarowa, Lipnica Dolna, Sekowa, and Haczow. It was inscribed in 2003 and the name on the UNESCO listing was named from Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland to Wooden Churches of Southern Malopolska in 2013.

This site is a collection of Roman Catholic Gothic churches that were built during the medieval period. All of these churches are notable for its use of horizontal log building technique. According to UNESCO, the reason for its inscription lies in its ability to exemplify medieval church-building traditions that were common in Eastern and Northern Europe during the time of the Middle Ages.

About the Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

There are 6 churches that are listed by UNESCO as part of the protected area for Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. These churches are as follows:

The church of the Archangel Michael (Binarowa): This is a Gothic, wooden church located in the village of Binarowa. It was built and has been around since the 15th century. A nave tower was added in 1596 and the interior of the church is fully decorated with polychrome. A bell tower was added in 1602 and was completed in 1608. Throughout the years, the church underwent extensive reconstruction and renovation. In 1890, the weak structure was secured by adding planks and columns in the naive. During the 1990s, the roof tin on the church was replaced with a wooden shingle. A flood in 2010 also caused damage to the structure that required another round of renovation. To this day, this church is still in use.

The church of All Saints (Blizne): This is another one of the churches included in the UNESCO site Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. It is located in the village of Blizne and was also built in the 15th century. It is one of Poland’s most notable wooden sacramental architecture to ever exist. It was also part of the Trail of Wooden Architecture in Subcarpathian Voivodeship. The church is part of a parish complex located on a hilltop and surrounded by ancient woodland. It also has fortification features that were estimated to have been built in the 16th century.

The church of Archangel Michael (Debno): This 15th century Gothic Roman Catholic Church is part of the UNESCO site Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. Located in the village of Debno, the location of this church was believed to have been the same location as the village’s first church that was built in the 13th century. It has become a landmark in Poland as one of the best kept wooden Gothic churches in the country. The current structure of the church is also its original with a polychrome interior.

The church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Archangel Michael (Haczow): This Gothic Roman Catholic church is located in the village of Haczow in Poland. This, along with the 5 other churches included in the Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland UNESCO site, was built in the 15th century. It is also Europe’s largest wooden Gothic church, on top of being the oldest wooden framework churches in the country. It was completed in 1459.

Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland

The church of St. Leonard (Lipnica Murowana): This church in Lipnica Murowana is one of the 6 churches collectively known as the Wooden Churches of Southern Little Poland. Built at the end of the 15th century, the church sits on the former location of a former pagan charm. The church was built on a wooden framework known as bipartite. It also comes with a wider nave (almost shaped like a square). Meanwhile, the roof is made of wooden shingle and only the south side of the church has windows. The doors to this church are located on the southern and western sides.

The church of St. Philip and St. James the Apostles (Sekowa): This is the final church that was recognized into the collective site in Poland recognized by UNESCO for the wooden architecture. This church consists of one nave, three-sided chancel, and a wooden framework on a gravel foundation. It has undergone expansion in the 17th century (while the church itself was completed in 1520). The church suffered tremendous damage in the years of World War I. Hence, the interior of the church is poorly damaged.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Poland.

Gary Arndt
Gary Arndt

Gary began traveling the world in 2007. His travels have taken him to over 200 countries and territories and 400 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

He is a 3x Lowell Thomas Award winner and a 3x North American Travel Photographer of the Year.