The wooden church in Ursi village, Popesti commune, Valcea County, is the big winner of the 2021 edition of the European Heritage Awards/Europa Nostra Awards 2021. The project also won the Audience Award, informs the Representation of the European Commission in Romania on its website.The wooden church in the Ursi village, dating from the eighteenth century and which was restored using traditional materials and techniques and in a collaborative manner, facilitating the exchange of ideas and knowledge between international participants, was selected by the leadership of Europe at the recommendation of an independent jury of experts, to receive one of the Grand Prizes worth 10,000 euros, in the Conservation category. The wooden church in Ursi was also selected by the general public as the most appreciated heritage project in Europe. About 7,000 citizens across Europe voted online for the Audience Award through the Europa Nostra website.
The wooden church in the village of Ursi, dedicated to the "Annunciation" and "Archangel Michael", was built between 1757 and 1784. Although it survived a fire in 1838, and then was repaired and decorated with frescoes, the church was later abandoned, after the construction of a new church in the village. When it was rediscovered in 2007, the church almost lacked a foundation and was in danger of collapsing, while its shingled roof was in urgent need of repair. Also, the frescoes painted in the post-Byzantine tradition, with Western influences having a remarkable artistic value were severely degraded. In 2009, the church in Ursi was included by the Pro Patrimonio Foundation in the "60 wooden churches" program in Romania, being later nominated in the "7 Most Endangered 2014" program.
Every summer, from 2009 to 2020, restoration works took place, preceded annually by months of fundraising efforts. The jury appreciated the quality of the restoration as commendable.
"The conservation of the Wooden Church in Ursi took place in an isolated area, with limited resources and the involvement of the local community. During the project, many opportunities were created for the exchange of knowledge. The project also led to a deeper understanding of the value of local heritage and a sense of caring among the village's community. This is an exemplary approach to preserving vulnerable buildings such as this church," the jury said.
The main partners involved were the Pro Patrimonio Foundation, the Department of Conservation and Restoration within the National University of Arts in Bucharest, the Astra Museum of Traditional Folk Civilization, the Horia Hulubei National Institute for Physics and Nuclear Engineering, the Romanian Order of Architects, Association 37 and the owner of the objective, the Romanian Orthodox Church.