Iza Valley is a region with enchanting and captivating scenery. Iza is one of the most important rivers in Maramures. It springs in the Rodna and the Batrina Mountains. The valley spans 83 km collecting hundreds of small rivers until it flows into the Tisa River.
All along the Iza Valley there are small villages dating back to before the 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.
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 it 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.
Traditional weaving is one of the most important activities in the village. Only natural colors are used to obtain the thread materials for weaving. “Tolurile”, as they are called by the women, have striking colors: warm tints of green, yellow, smooth brown and sometimes red and blue, made from natural dyes.
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.
Ieud also has two distinctive wooden churches which have been declared historical and architectural monuments.
The first one is ‘The Birth of Virgin Mary ‘ Church on the hill, built in 1364 and it is the oldest church in Maramures. It is built from pine and fir wood with small windows, double roof and a single, impressive steeple. The paintings are original, dating from the 15th -16th century and their condition is relatively good. The church also has a collection of glass painted icons. Inside, the stairs to the tower are carved in one piece of wood. ‘Zbornicul’ or ‘ The Book of Laws’ was discovered in the attic , unique in the country and the oldest manuscript in the Romanian language printed in 1543 in Brasov.
The second church was erected in 1699 and it is called the Church in the Valley. Built in “Maramures gothic” style, the church is also called the “Wooden Cathedral”.
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 Ieud celebrate with a multi-day festival of traditional culture called “Ieud Cultural Days. “Ieud is the place where a divorce and abortion has never been recorded. It is also home to more than 50 of Nicolae Ceausescu’s heroine mothers having more than fourteen children each. It is common for families to have six to eight children and children represent more than half of the population of 5,000 – and growing!
The village is 12 kilometers from Vadu-Izei. Barsana 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.
One of the loveliest faces of faith and wood can be found in Barsana. The 57 m. high church of Barsana monastery ranks first among the wooden construction of Romania. The foundation work was started in 1993 and by now the church is one of the most beautiful structure made by peasants in the country. The monastery, along its holly and artistic qualities has a great homing facility, telephone, internet and many other great features.
In addition to its history, Barsana is worth visiting for its beautiful traditional gates, friendly, hard-working people and beautiful scenery.
Bogdan Voda (Cuhea)
40 kilometers from Vadu-Izei is the village of Bogdan-Voda. The village takes its name from Voivode Bogdan I, a native of Cuhea. Bogdan-Voda has an important place in Maramures’ history because it was the residence of the Voivode 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-Voda’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.
Set along the bank of the Iza River, this village is 23 kilometers from Vadu Izei on Country Road 186.
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 church holds many beautiful icons painted on wood and glass. These are of great artistic importance, painted in the traditional style of Maramures.