Unique timber church saved from wood-worm

Craftsmen in Karelia are turning to the latest technology in their battle to save a unique timber church from wood-worm. They're treating logs from the 300-year-old building with a miraculous microwave device.

The Church of the Transfiguration, a masterpiece of Russian wooden architecture, was built almost three centuries ago at Karelia in northern Russia. The carpenter's main tool at that time was an axe.  Craftsmen used their skill with the axe to bind together 3,000 round logs without nails.

Only in the 19th century were the log walls reinforced with planks.  At about the same time the domes were covered with roofing iron.

Today wood-worm is destroying the walls of the ancient wooden church.  Restorers are striving to save the unique piece of architecture.

Locate and destroy

The Church of the Transfiguration, Karelia, 
            Russia
The Church of the Transfiguration, Karelia, Russia

The device specially designed for this purpose was nicknamed “the microwave oven” by those working on the restoration project.  It burns out the harmful wood-worm without damaging the wood.

“This technology allows us to locate the larva at an early stage. We can hear as it gnaws through the wood,” explained Margarita Kisternaya, a senior scientist. 

The restorers are planning to finish work by 2014, which is the church’s 300th anniversary. By that time they will have treated every piece of wood inside and outside the church.

The hardest part is the basement. The whole building will have to be lifted up to recover the foundation logs.

The names of the 18th century carpenters who created the Church of the Transfiguration remain unknown. But legend says that the church was built by a single carpenter named Nestor. It is said that on completing the church he threw his axe into Lake Onego saying ‘nothing more beautiful could ever be built’.