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Open Air Museum and Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński in Sanok

The town of Sanok, known as the “gateway to the Bieszczady Mountains,” is worth visiting for at least two reasons. It is a vast open-air museum with more than 30,000 exhibits telling the story of the region’s multicultural past, as well as a gallery with works by one of Poland’s most remarkable artists.

Sanok – Folk Architecture Museum

The open-air museum in Sanok, actually the Folk Architecture Museum, is the largest such facility in Poland and one of the best-known museums of its kind in Europe. It was established just after World War II, when it became clear that military operations and resettlement actions have led to the almost complete disappearance of local cultures and customs.

Thanks to the work of museum workers, many valuable traces of the ethnic and religious diversity of the area, inhabited by: Poles, Ruthenians, Germans, Boykos, Lemkos, Catholics, Greek Catholics or Orthodox believers. It used to be a real cultural melting pot!

Numerous historic Orthodox churches or abandoned cottages that were deteriorating after the war were transferred to the open-air museum and then carefully restored.

Most of the buildings can be visited inside as well, showing, among other things, that one ate at the table only on holidays (eating from benches was the norm), and that the walls of the huts without chimneys, common in the region, were whitewashed only up to 2/3 of the height (above that line the smoke from the hearth hung down, so it would not make sense).

A visit to the rescued churches, in turn, is an opportunity to admire the majestic iconostasis, finely decorated “tsar’s gates” or wall paintings drawn by the hand of local artists.

The tour is made more pleasant by the surroundings – the museum grounds are large enough that the objects seem to be naturally immersed in space – surrounded by hills, small ponds and gardens.

Sanok – Zdzisław Beksiński Gallery

A visit to the local historical museum is a real treat for lovers of modern art, specifically the work of one of the most intriguing Polish artists of the 20th century – Zdzisław Beksiński. The museum hosts an exhibition of about 600 works of his art.

Beksiński (1929-2005) was a painter, photographer and sculptor known outside Poland, representing the dystopian surrealism trend. Characteristic of his dark work, full of gothic references, is his fascination with the human body, death, as well as mysticism in the broadest sense. The artist called his work “photographing dreams.”

As intriguing as Beksiński’s art is his life, which is full of riddles. Born and raised in Sanok, he studied in Kraków, but soon returned to his hometown. Beginning in the 1980s, his work gained recognition first in France and later around the world. A series of tragic deaths in the family (first his wife passed away, then his son) culminated in Beksiński’s murder at the hands of one of his employees. A rumor went around the country about the “curse” of the Beksiński family.

The gallery consists of several rooms. They house photographs from the early period and a reconstruction of the artist’s studio. Further on, we can see a live selection of the most famous of his works.




Startpunkt - Museum für Volksarchitektur

Open Air Museum and Gallery of Zdzisław Beksiński in Sanok