A Socio-Psychological Perspective
When the Lutherans looked from their hill tops onto the other Christian world around them or when they listened to the reports of merchants and journeymen, they would probably have felt like between Scylla and Charybdis: an opulent papaism fringing on the blasphemous on the one side, Orthodox idolatry on the other. They might have felt a certain gratitude towards the Turks under the dominion of whom they earlier had entered on terms which, although having to pay tribute, consolidated their economic links and allowed them to maintain their Hungarian culture whilst going on peacefully with their daily business. The north and west of Hungary remained at war .
Transylvanian Lutherans and Turks met on more than one scale, neither were religious fanatics, both were an unfussy, practical people and showed tolerance to others. And except for the great mosques and cathedrals (mainly of Roman Catholic origin) that were fine architecture, their places of worship were rather sober if not somewhat austere or putting it plainly, were lacking salt in the soup.
One of the ways the Turks overcame this was by decorating the mosques’ floors with rugs. The Transylvanians adopted this model in a distinct own way by hanging the rugs against the walls, as was the western fashion – in the 18th century the more adventurous may have begun dressing a la Turque – as was also be done in parts of Hungary.
The significance of taking those rugs into the churches rests not alone in the overcoming of the “horror vacui” after the reformation in a decorative sense, more important even, the custom may have been an important factor in the formation of a social self-esteem. In their churches, the centre of parish life as well as the centre of social life in the 16th to 18th centuries, the priced rugs elsewhere reserved for kings and cardinals, had reached them, the ordinary people. The rugs had become self-confirmatory to the collective self-esteem.
That it was a golden age in some respect became apparent when it ended at the end of the 17th century. Soon after Transylvania was again embraced by the Habsburg monarchy, the privileges that had lasted since the middle ages were withdrawn (later partially restored). Transylvania lost its political significance, but remained a centre of the anti-Habsburg movement (Batári, F (1980) Turkish Rugs in Hungary. Hali Vol 3 No 2, p 82 ff).
In establishing the custom of donating those rugs to the parish churches, it may have helped, that those early rugs often showed cruciforms. This may have made it possible to connote them as being associated with the realms of the Lord; whether the weavers were aware of this, would probably have been no matter of much concern.
One of those rugs, Cat. 4, is a very special one; it’s discussion belongs into a parallel thread, titled by Filiberto very appropriately ‘Splendid Rugs.’