The Spirit is in the Timber

Wooden architecture holds a special place in my heart. This is likely to do with having grown up on an island on the west coast of British Columbia. Cedar self builds were and are quite common  but each one is unique and offers a sort of warmth that other domestic architecture lacks.

The other day I snapped up an old postcard on ebay featuring an old delapitated wooden church in British Columbia, taken in the 50s so the structure is likely long gone now. Of course a good deal of the early settlers to North America were  religious refugees originating from northern Europe, which wooden churches are normally associated with, and clearly there were trees trees trees everywhere. It seems there is a movements to return to timber framed places of worship with one going up in Sooke recently.

Photographer Richard Davies has been logging (‘scuze the pun) the wooden churches of Russia, documenting the declining structures in their often harsh environs with astonishing photography.

Interestingly is possible to date these buildings by the rings in the logs (dendrochronology), some of the oldest so far being an outhouse in Småland Sweden dating to early 13th century and the oldest standing wooden church in the world is actually Greensted Church in Essex, England dating to mid-9th to mid-11th century. Amazing how long a wood structure lasts, really.

The western Russian estate, Vasilevo (Василёво) is an entire preserved village of 18th and early 19th century wooden vernacular structures.

I think I have just found my next holiday destination!

As a slight digression,  a little something on Russian house folklore, an animated short whose subject is a house spirit known as a domovoi. Little hairy beared creatures that live hidden in homes, who if well fed and nicely treated were believed to help with the cleaning, caring for the cattle and warn of impending danger. If they didn’t like the human dwellers they became unpleasant, and sleep paralysis as depicted in Fuseli’s The Nightmare was believed to be caused by these spirits.. so perhaps leave a couple biscuits out now and then.



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