Wooden churches, some of which are more than 400 years old, built by folk masters and spread along villages in Maramures, are among the most visited tourist landmarks, and eight of them are on the famous UNESCO World Heritage List, along with the Merry Cemetery of Sapanta.
The eight wooden churches are located in Surdesti, Rogoz, Poienile Izei, Plopis, Ieud Deal, Desesti, Budesti and Barsana.
* The Church of the Holy Paraskeva (Desesti) was built in 1770. Legend has it that in 1717 Tartars invaded the place and burned down the local church, with the site for the new church having been chosen by the altar stone, the only piece to have survived the disaster. Villagers allegedly tried to pick up the altar stone and erect it in various places to build the new church, but every time the stone would fall. After five unsuccessful attempts, the stone stood in the place where the church is nowadays.
Documents of the church and a text found in the narthex mention that the painting was done in 1780, in a simple, folklore manner. It is naive painting that depicts the connection between humans and God. Wooden architecture is part of the traditions of Maramures. Wood joints, architectural balance and harmony, an impression of simplicity and elegance betray an intimate knowledge of the art of wood.
On closer inspection, the beams located in the upper part of the church sustaining the roof that continues as sculpted stairs provide a note of originality, setting it apart from the classical wooden churches. At the same time, the cemetery of the church has tens of Celtic stone crosses. The church is located on national road DN18 that connect together the cities of Baia Mare and Sighetu Marmatiei.
* The Church of Saint Nicholas (Budesti) was built in 1643. The church is built of thick wooden beams placed on a massive river stone base. On display inside the church are a chainmail shirt and headgear of outlaw Pintea Viteazul, about whom legend says bring them here himself.
The interior painting was done in warm, bright colours that are well harmonised to impart a certain charm. The religious theme drawings were done most likely in 1762 by Alexandru Ponehalschi and are visible only on the western side of the walls all the way to the altar. Well preserved in the church are 17th century wooden and glass icons, and one of the most important ones depicts St. John the Baptist. The wooden church of Budesti is distinguished by four pinnacles at the base of the spire, quite a rare thing about the churches of Maramures.
* The Church of the Holy Archangels of Plopis, the birthplace of incumbent Christian Orthodox Bishop of Maramures and Satmar Iustinian Chira, was built by the locals in 1798- 1811 to replace an older church. A document found in the leg of the holy table, along with 49 coins, mentions that the church was built with support from every family of the village.
The church of Plopis is peculiar for its modest sizes: it is just 17 m long, 7 m broad and 47 m tall, which, according to historians with the Maramures County Museum of History and Archaeology, witness a real sense of proportions. The interior painting depicts scenes from the Apocalypse, covering the entire western wall of the narthex. The church has two distinguished architectural traits: a flat roof slightly lowered over the sanctuary and upper beams that do not protrude to the outside.
* The Church of the Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple (Barsana) was built in 1720 on a site known as Podurile Manastirii, the monastery's attics, and translated in 1806 to the Jbar Hill, where is its standing now. It is the only church on the UNESCO World heritage List to serve a monastery first and that a parish.
The interior painting meets the rigours of Baroque art and it is considered one of the most valuable iconographies of Maramures for its deep eschatological and moralising traits and an easy to follow narration. Legend has it that on the Jbar Hill of Barsana there was a cemetery for plagued people who would be hastily buried there to prevent the spread of the disease. The church was relocated there because people were convinced that the victims would sleep their eternal sleep peacefully only after a church service.
* The church of Ieud Deal is said to have been built in 1634, probably one of the oldest wooden churches in the land of Maramures. Its painting and iconostas are from the 18th centuries, observing traditional canons, and they are well preserved. Depicted on the walls of the narthex is the Last Judgement, in the shape of a fire of the Inferno engulfing all the damned people.
The church also has a valuable collection of 16th-17th century glass icons, most likely brought from the Nicula Monastery of Cluj County, carpets died in vegetal dyes, church flags and many printings bearing the signature of famous printer Coresi, including 'Intrebare crestina' ( Christian question) and 15th century 'Apostolul' (The Apostle).
Some hundreds of years ago, 'Codicele de la Ieud' (The Ieud Codex) was found in the attic of the church, a highly valuable manuscripts that has church year 6900 printed on the first page that some say dates back to 1391, being considered one of the oldest written text in Romanian language using the Cyrillic alphabet. There are other researchers who argue the document should be two centuries younger.
* The Church of the Holy Archangels (Surdesti) was built in 1721 under the careful guidance of master Toma Macarie. The 72-m high church is considered one of Europe's tallest wooden structures. Built exclusively of oak wood, the church is remarkable for its double canopy and a portico with two rows of superposed arcades.
The interior paintings, some on canvass and others on wood, depict scenes from the Old Testament and the New Testament by the local painter Stefan.
* The Church of the Holy Paraskevi (Poienile Izei) is one of the most spectacular in terms of architectural features, with a sanctuary based on a square plan, just like in the early times of Christianity. Its paintings of 1794 approach common themes of traditional iconography. Conspicuous among them is a big-size Last Judgment painting and a comical painting of a Christian sleeping through the church service in a bed with the Devil playing the violin for him beside him.
* The Church of the Holy Archangels (Rogoz) was built in 1663 with support from the locals. It is characterised by a recessed heptagonal sanctuary, a polygonal narthex, a southern entrance, and a large asymmetrical roof. It is also distinctive for its profusion of decorative sculpture. The names of wealthy families that would provide alms on church holidays are inscribed on the walls.
Another distinct feature is the head of the beams carved in the shape of a horse head, a common feature found at most of the village houses back then. The interior painting includes archaic Romanian mythology motifs, such as the Sun, the Moon and the Stars, which hundreds of years later would be found in other Maramures churches as well.
All the eight churches of Maramures County inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List are visited by thousands of Romanian and foreign tourists each year who want to learn about local history or admire painted scenes that reveal the understanding of Christianity in the countryside in very old times.