“Clean Room” of Răscruci village
The exhibition in Răscruci displays first of all the spiritual and material assets of Hungarian communities living in the Transylvanian Plain. In this region up to the mid-twentieth century every wealthy family usually had a clean room, which, as a general rule, was the place for displaying and storing the family’s material assets, Sunday church outfits and the dowry which was prepared over the years. In less well-to-do households the clean room was decorated mainly before the red-letter holidays, at Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, and, for the most part, the exhibition displays the items against this festive background. Nevertheless, apart from various wall-hangings, decorative wall plates, and pear-shaped pottery jugs, ornate beds, tables, skilfully carved chairs, benches, storage benches, and cabinets, the clean room also gave a home to everyday objects, kitchen utensils and instruments used for spinning and weaving.
Of the geographical and cultural regions presented within the ethnographic collection, the traditional home furnishing displayed in the room of Răscruci – part of the material culture of the Transylvanian Plain – is among the most interesting. The villages of the Transylvanian Plain, even in the period following the Second World War, were rarely the object of thorough, systematic ethnographic research. As this region is inhabited by a community marked by differences in language, culture, and religion, it was avoided by most researchers. The exploration of the culture of Hungarians living in the Transylvanian Plain began relatively late, in the interwar period. The study of ethnographer Gertrúd Palotay on the embroidery of Sic, published in 1944 (Palotay 1944) captured the interest of Zoltán Kodály as well, who concluded that if the embroideries of the region were so wonderful, their folk music must be similarly rich. Encouraged by Kodály, composer and folk music researcher László Lajtha visited first Sic and then Sânmărtin. Attila T. Szabó conducted toponomastic and linguistic research on a regular basis, and in 1944 he published an article in the Erdélyi Múzeumi Közlemények (Transylvanian Museum Journal) entitled Unknown Embroideries of the Transylvanian Plain. Despite the initial display of interest it was not before the development of the dance-house movement following the events of 1968 that this area re-captured the attention of researchers. Prior to the change of regime the ethnographer and museologist Károly Kósthe younger was preoccupied rather by the culture of objects, whereas, beginning with the 1980s the ethnographer and university professor Vilmos Keszeg conducted significant research into belief in this region.
From the ethnographic point of view there is a distinct characteristic area within the Transylvanian Plain, comprising eight villages: Răscruci, Bonțida, Luna de Jos, Tiocu de Jos, Borșa, Feiurdeni, Câmpenești, and Măcicașu. These settlements are represented in the room of Răscruci. In these localities they generally did not use black for weaving or embroidery, except for wool weaving. They used the same set of motifs as the neighbouring villages, but in the case of embroideries we meet the red-blue colour combination and the pierced part was usually highlighted by grey. This method also dominated in the embroidery of women’s blouses. This area was mainly characterised by ong-waisted garments, whereas the neighbouring villages typically preferred short-waisted dresses. With the exception of Sic, every village used all-white embroidery as a general rule. The practice of wool processing has been preserved in these villages even to this day. Even today we can find fur bedspreads, fur tablecloths, and hand-woven over garments in any traditional rural household. As sheep breeding was quite common in this region, in Lacu, for instance, even sacks were woven from wool. Farmers living here usually had a large number of sheep and at the time of sheep shearing and harvest Romanian women from Maramureș came here to wash the wool. This work was usually remunerated with wool. In the manufacture of woven fabric the “fuzzy technique” was characteristic. The first such piece was collected by Tamás Hofer in Răscruci, and later placed in the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest. According to Edit Fél, the first information on this weaving method date back to the fourth century BC: this explains why the fuzzy pillow edges caused a stir in the professional sector, since it was hitherto unknown to experts that this particular weaving technique was also used in Hungarian-inhabited areas.
The physical and spiritual heritage of these rural settlements was considerably richer than that of the neighbouring noble villages, as the maid servants who sewed the garments of noblewomen also recreated their favourite motifs for their own use. The noble villages also imitated and followed the culture of the aristocracy. The textiles known as “written” double chain stitch patterns are a more vigorous, peasant-style version of aristocratic embroidery. In Răscruci red was usually the colour used for needlework, whereas in the neighbouring villages people used black or red, though the red-blue combination was generally preferred in embroidery. The elbow-sewn shirt was a common item in the eight villages represented in the room of Răscruci. The men’s and women’s leather waistcoats and jackets are worth mentioning; these items stand out with their tailoring, embroidery, and decoration. As far as footwear is concerned, villagers usually wore boots that they had bought in the market in Cluj, which they set aside for festive occasions only. On weekdays, during summer people went barefoot for the most part, and in winter they wore sandals.
The inhabitants of the Transylvanian Plain also purchased painted dowry chests at the Cluj market. These were generally manufactured by craftsmen in Cluj. The ceramics on display are mostly the products of major pottery centres of the nineteenth century. The interior walls are decorated with pear-shaped jugs and plates from Turda, Bistrița, and Dej. These were usually purchased at fairs or bought from wandering pottery masters in exchange for wheat. The early 1900s marked the disappearance of rural pottery workshops in Răscruci and Sic. The last one in Cubleșu Someșan ceased to exist approximately a decade ago when the last potter passed away. The room of Răscruci presents the details of peasant society, an almost bygone era. To this day the priceless inherited repository of culture, experience and values passed on to the inhabitants of this region constitutes an integral part of everyday life. This invaluable heritage can only be used meaningfully by locals if they know how to lead a responsible life in the community and society they were born into.
Comuna Bonțida, Răscruci, Romania
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Zoltán Kallós Foundation
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Author(s) of this page
- Jánosi, Csongor
Palotay, Gertrúd. 1944. A szolnokdobokai Szék magyar hímzései (The Hungarian Embroideries of Sic, Solnoc-Dăbâca). Kolozsvár: Minerva Nyomda.
Kallós, Zoltán, interview by Jánosi, Csongor , September 21, 2017. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection