View Full Version : Rugs in Transylvannia

Jon Knowles
October 19th, 2015, 12:15 PM
Forgive a neophyte if he over-eagerly tells you what you already know....

I recently had the great luck to spend 9 days on a road trip around Transylvania and what I saw fascinated me in so many ways. Not least among the revelations were the wonderful antique rugs displayed throughout Southern Transylvania in the Siebenburgen area from Sigishoara in the East to Sibiu in the West and all point around and in-between. I believe there are are over 128 medieval saxon churches in this area which have or had rugs displayed as ornamentation to the otherwise austere Lutheran style of these Reformation fortified churches. It is a most marvellous marriage of East & West, the initial incongruity of which transformed into amazed appreciation before this travellers eyes.

I saw the most amazing rugs in Sigishoara and throughout my visits to the Saxons church-fortresses. I offer some links to the photos here:


Alas, I was not always at liberty to go where I wanted or stay long where I intended. therefore much to my regret, the unbelievable gem of the Brukenthal remains a mystery to me: http://www.brukenthalmuseum .ro/europeana_en/etajI/05.htm

I was able, however, in Sibiu (formerly Hermanstadt) able to purchase a rug from a small antiques hop tucked away in a side street - the only rug he had.

I will be returning....

I am new to this game and I fear I may now have a taste for it! But i know next to nothing and all my internet research concerning my purchase has yielded little beyond the obvious. It is a hand-woven kilim. It is approximately two metres square (but not quite square). the geometric designs do not fit easily into the recognised library of available symbols to my eyes. It was, for a substantial period, hung (right-hand side uppermost in the photo). One end has a mismatched colour tone which does not appear to be caused by fading.

Patrick Weiler
October 20th, 2015, 04:29 PM

These are some quite wonderful rugs! I noticed that a couple of them, #6 and #7, are "cut and shut" where the center section has been removed and the sides were then sewn back together. And most of these rugs show wear at the bottom, in the center, where the flatwoven ends and sections of pile have been replaced. This center section wear and tear must have extended up into the rugs which were "cut and shut' severely enough that the center sections were removed from them.
With so many showing wear in this area, the process by which it occurred was quite likely similar to all of them. In photos of these church rugs that I have seen before, many were hung behind pews and some draped over the front of pews. If hung horizontally over the front of a pew, center wear would have occurred over time, perhaps rendering some of these rugs damaged enough to require the "cut and shut" repairs. If hung behind a pew, constant abrasion from the heads and shoulders of the congregation could have caused the wear in the lower sections. And they obviously didn't ship them back to Anatolia for proper repairs back in the day.
As for your new rug, it looks like a kilim pattern woven in pile. Something is funny about the upper, left corner where it looks like the rug is notched, but that may just be a fold. It appears to be a fairly recent, high quality rug, with a lot of attention paid to the warp bottom ends which were woven into a netting. Romanians have been weaving rugs for many years, as evidenced by the notorious Brasov rug counterfeiter, Tuduc. He went from being a rug repairman in the early 20th century to making entire rugs based on examples in Romania and became a fully fledged faker and famous footnote in rug history. Your newly acquired taste in rugs may provide you with many years of acquisition, appreciation and despair.

Patrick Weiler

Jon Knowles
October 20th, 2015, 05:41 PM
Thank you Patrick!

Indeed, the 'notch' is just how the rug was laid out - I didn't quite have room and so the top left corner is draped over an inch of marble fireplace!

I suspect you are spot on with your diagnosis of the cause of the cut & shut repairs. From what I understand the rugs in the churches were given by families over many years - centuries even! Often functioning to mark a place in the church for a specific family (?) A bit like the modern German beach towel.... :)

Quite often literally hundreds of rugs might accrue to the larger churches and hence the collections at places like the Brukenthal.

Can you say whether there is a specific top or bottom to my rug? Should a rug be hung any which way? Any comment on what the geometric shapes might convey?

In any event, it's a nice rug and I wanted to try to find out some more about it. It's destined to spend the rest of its days adorning a wall or floor in a very old house in the Middle of Nowhere, France.

Fascinating tidbit about your man Tuduc - I shall be looking him up. Many thanks.

Jon Knowles
October 21st, 2015, 10:45 AM
The nearest I can find in terms of design is probably Usak from Western Anatolia.

the stylized floral motifs and border patterns plus its location in Sibiu make me think it likely it is of relatively modern Usak design.

Marvin Amstey
October 31st, 2015, 04:01 PM
If you are serious about going back and have an interest in rugs, I would recommend strongly going on one of Stefano Ionescu's tours (www.Transylvanianru gs.com). He is an acknowledged expert on Transylvanian rugs and has written the definitive book on them. We were very pleased to be with him last June, and I see that he is repeating the tour in May. You can contact him through the website mentioned above.

September 13th, 2018, 02:01 PM
Is Stefano Ionescu still doing this tour btw?

Steve Price
September 13th, 2018, 03:17 PM
Is Stefano Ionescu still doing this tour btw?
If you follow the link in Marvin's post (the one immediately preceding yours) it will still take you straight to the site with all the information.

Steve Price