Perhaps nobody else embodies more fully the traditional wood carving craftsmanship of Maramureş than Teodor Bârsan of the Bârsana village. It may be no coincidence that his talent flourished in a village which has more wood carvers than any other village in Maramureş: Bârsana is strewn with beautifully carved old wooden gates and numerous wooden houses and boasting two wooden churches one being on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and the other one being one of the most beautiful monasteries of Maramureş.
Starting his carving at the age of 16, Bârsan learnt the skills from the most accomplished masters of cross and gate carving of the times. Like many of his peer craftsmen, Bârsan made his apprenticeship in carpentry, however he soon went on to carve not only household furniture, but houses, churches and eventually gates, crosses and crucifixes. He only started carving gates rather by accident, when, at the age of thirty, he carved his own house gate.Teodor Bârsan’s fame lies particularly in his crucifixes and crosses, the troiţe, which adorn places such as the front of the Romanian National Television in Bucharest and of the Orthodox Cathedral in Timișoara and many more all over the world. He represented Romania in countless international art exhibitions, one of them at the Smithsonian Institute in USA in 1999. UNESCO recognized him as a Living Human Treasure, an honor bestowed on those individuals who embody the true spirit of a nation’s traditions.
Not only Bârsan the father is carving, so does one of his two sons, Ioan (pictured together with his father). Ioan graduated the prestigious Mathematics Faculty in Cluj, but after a short stint as a professor he returned to what he felt closer to his heart: wood carving. One finds him working shoulder to shoulder with his father in the family workshop. Bârsan’s other son embraced a path calling for equally much passion: priesthood.
For more photos of Teodor Bârsan and his work, visit The Artists section of this website.