Collection of Erdélyi, Zsuzsanna
Zsuzsanna Erdélyi’s collection was the outcome of an unanticipated event in socialist Hungary. The ethnographer and her colleague Sándor Bálint created a collection of objects pertaining to Catholic folk practices in the mid-1970s with the public support of Cardinal László Lékai and the Catholic press. The survival of a significant number of private religious objects during the communist era demonstratd that many citizens lived active spiritual lives and cultivated the heritage of their parents and grandparents, despite the government prohibition against religion.
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Name of collection
- Collection of Erdélyi, Zsuzsanna
Provenance and cultural activities
The ethnographer couple Zsuzsanna Erdélyi and Sándor Bálint created a collection of objects pertaining to Catholic folk practices in the mid-1970s. They had the support of Cardinal László Lékai, who himself considered ethnographic research on religious culture important. Zsuzsanna Erdélyi already had a reputation as a scholar in Hungary and internationally because of her 1968 work on apocryphal prayers. Through the Catholic press, in the periodical Új Ember (“New Human”; 6 January 1980) they called on Hungarians to donate sacred objects to a new ethnographical museum. The call was a big success: hundreds of icons, holy pictures, prayer books, and piety objects were donated. The donors enclosed letters and stories concerning the objects. The survival of a significant number of these religious objects during the communist era demonstrated that people lived active spiritual lives and protected the heritage of their parents and grandparents, despite the government prohibition against religion.
New calls were announced in Új Ember. The editors commented on the letters sent in by the readers, which often asked about the kinds of objects to be sent and the future fates of these objects. The conversation in Új Ember proved that knowledge of the call had spread among the population, and the Catholic press also endorsed the establishment of the envisioned collection.
Zsuzsanna Erdélyi and Sándor Bálint started to collect these religious objects at a time when members of a generation which remembered the religious practices of previous decades and protected this heritage consciously were still alive. The collection presented folk religious life in a broad context. The objects offer information about personal and collective pious life, the concept of sacred material, and the roles of religion in daily life. The objects concerning religious holidays were put into a separate group. The manuscripts and other religious texts reveal how sacred texts became popular and provide insights into the intersections of institutionalized and folk religious cultures.
In 1980, an exhibition was organized based on these objects. In 1992, the collection was transported to the Keresztény Múzeum (Christian Museum) in Esztergom. Today, the collection is located in the building of the Szent Adalbert Központ (Saint Adalbert Centre), where a permanent exhibition has been installed using a selection of the objects.
Description of content
The collection contains printed books, manuscripts, Bibles, prayer books, and handwritten prayer books. It also contains printed sacred images, devotional medals, religious sculptures, paintings, carvings, works-of-art made by nuns, souvenirs from religious festivals, and embroidered clothing. A selection of religious objects from the seventeenth and twentieth centuries constitutes a particularly valuable part of the collection.
- clothing: 500-999
- manuscripts (ego-documents, diaries, notes, letters, drafts, etc.): 1000-
- other artworks (that cannot be classified by other filter categories such as paintings, sculptures, graphics, etc.): 1000-
- paintings: 500-999
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
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Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Author(s) of this page
- Vámos, Gabriella