Introduction

Our museum shows how people in the past two and a half centuries lived in the villages of Vas county. The peasant world of old ages and colourful ethnographical and natural heritage of the western border can not only be discovered in form of permanent exhibitions, but it is handicraft workshops or museum lessons, as well as seasonal fairs and folklore events making it a real experience.

It was an architect, János Tóth, and an ethnography expert, Ágoston Pável, to first think of the idea of an open air village museum in the 1930ies. They intended to relocate the oldest and most beautiful buildings of the Őrség, Vend, Hegyhát and Kemenesalja regions. Their plan could not be implemented because of the encroaching World War. The interest towards folk architecture of varied regions was raised again in the 1950ies. Apart from the local preserving of valuable building complexes (Cák, Szalafő), the relocation of folk monuments into open-air collections proved to be an educational way. The construction of the Village Museum of Vas county was begun 1968 in the county seat, the town of Szombathely. It opened its gates 1973 as the second open-air folk museum in Hungary. János Bárdosi, the ethnologist working at the Savaria Museum played a key role in achieving the success of the initiative.

The open-air museum attempts to give back the atmosphere of old villages. The placement of the houses reflects original conditions, the enclosed buildings were aligned streetwise, the houses of dispersed settlements were rebuilt at shorter distances. The building complexes reflect traditional peasant housing and living culture, as well as their way of living as a real village. The semi-circular alignment of its street shows the Croatian and German minorities, as well as regional units of the lowlands of Vas county. The artificial hill shows the dispersed settlement s of the Őrség and the Slovene vend region. The southern slopes harbour a row of wine-cellars, typical for the hillsides of the South-West-Transdanubean region. The second step in the planning of the village museum focuses on the establishment of a real image of village, subsequently there will be a row of streets at both ends of the semi-circle, thus creating a cone-shaped village centre.

You can meet people working in and around the houses, lodges and farm buildings. Our colleagues are glad to share their knowledge about what a “fajankó” (a chair used for carving wood) is, how the “hőkkönsült perec” (oven baked pretzel) was made, or how the hajdiván (equipment to carry hay) was used. Apart from the traditional built environment, visitors can learn about vegetables and flowers of the gardens, old fruit and grape sorts, agricultural crops of fields and traditional animals.

 

Public buildings, social buildings

The belfry of Molnaszecsőd with its shape and measurements is the one of the most beautiful belfries of South-West-Transdanubea – the countries Vas and Zala - and is the symbol of the Open-Air Village Museum. The belfry with a log and four columns might have been in the year when the bell was cast, i.e. 1772. The skirt and the crown are protected by wooden tiles. The skirt is attached to the tower beam by means of a plinth. The wooden gallery has a window-opening on each side. Belfries were also used for spying and observing apart from tolling bells.

Data were painted on obelisk-shaped, limestone carved piles, the Hungarian milestones, can be dated back to the turn of the 19-20th century. This specific milestone stood on the post-road between Bratislava and Varazdin, which was used again after the Rákóczi War of Independence (1704-1711): on the way from Szombathely tot the town of Kőszeg, at the village of Kámon on the left side of the former road 87. It was the Romans who began using milestones, one of them was found during an excavation in Savaria (the Roman predecessor of toady’s Szombathely) and can now be seen in the Savaria Museum.

The undershot watermill at the village of Szentkirály (today a part of Szombathely), erected on the Gyöngyös brook in the middle of the 19th century, was rebuilt from a three-wheel mill to a single-wheel mill.  Because of the slow flowing water and the large number of mills nearby, it was equipped with 140 cm fans. The stone, added into its wall later, indicates the water table of the Gyöngyös brook in the year 1874. Despite the spreading of steam-mills at the end of the 19th century, watermills, like the Szima-type in Szentkirály, were still in use in Transdanubea. Most of the mills in the 18-19th centuries and at the beginning of the 20th century were loaned to millers by the noblemen.

Both villages and lordships had a blacksmith until the middle of the 20th century. We equipped the blacksmith shop, relocated 1973 from the village of Cák, with stone walls and arched roof was equipped with tools from the former shop at the village of Ják. The open hall of the building with an open fireplace was used for shoeing horses. Temporarily – or on request – blacksmithing presentations can be held there. In accordance with decrees from the 18-19th centuries blacksmith shops were located at the edges of villages, far away from houses and storage buildings.

Open-air sacred buildings, blessing the landscape, along the roads – often in the crossroads – are crosses, stone images or chapels are characteristic elements of Catholic villages. The most simple and wide-spread form were wooden crucifixes with painted plate corpuses, just like the crucifix brought in from the town of Körmend in 1978.

One of the social buildings in the village centre of the Open-Air Village Museum is the copy of the late Baroque chapel devoted to Saint John of Nepomuk from the village of Perenye, furnished with old objects from the parish church of the village of Narda. It was János Kercselics the Agile and his wife, Erzsébet Hofer, who created a foundation to save the chapel. Its tower, bearing memories of its construction in the Open-Air Village Museum, harbours a small cast bell. 

 

Street row

The hilly regions of Vas county are dominated by dispersed settlements, the plains by villages with rows of streets.
Villages on the plains were built close to rivers, next to roads or on both sides of brooks. The houses were aligned on strip-shaped estates in a row, saw tooth-wise in right angle to the roads. On estates with linear alignment the farm buildings were behind the houses under one roof. Barns stood separately and often formed a row of barns. Behind these, there were orchards and fields. Farm buildings were built on the opposite side of houses, but also the well and the flower and vegetable garden could be found here.

There were usually long houses with parallel alignment on the thin estates of settlements with streets, while the hillside in the west was rather characterised by “L”-shaped, so called bent houses. These appeared in the second half of the 19th century in the villages close to the towns.

People in Vas county usually used wood to build their houses. Vast forests provided the base material for construction for several centuries. Pine and beech forests of the western hills were ideal for constructing beam walls, the mixed oak and Turkish oak forests were ideal for hedge walls. It was buildings with hedge walls that dominated the central and eastern regions of Vas county, .i.e. the villages of the Völgység and Hegyhát small-regions. Houses with stone-fill walls appeared in the middle of the 18th century as a result of decrees by the nobility to protect the forests. The use of unfired bricks or clay bricks has not become wide-spread, fired bricks and domestic brick firing have become regular from the middle of the 19th century. The villages had a new image. Arched porches appeared. The different wooden gables were replaced by brick ones with plaster ornamentation, however, very often there were centuries long differences in the buildings of villages.

The row of streets in the Open-Air Village Museum of Vas county consists of premises showing different ages, social and economic strata. The buildings represent the most archaic layers of folk architecture. The houses either have kitchens with no chimneys, or free chimneys. Kitchens with an open fire were wide-spread even between the two World Wars, however, in the north, in the Kisalföld region, there were buildings with chimneys a hundred years earlier.

The semi-circular alignment of the street in the Open-Air Village Museum is a temporary solution. A real village image, characteristic of Vas county, will only be possible, once the village centre and the street row, widened around the church, with both of its sides is built in the II. pace of implementation.

 

Settlement structure

The settlements on higher hills south to the Rába river in of the Őrség and the Vend small-region at the western part of Vas county have a dispersed character.

The Vend small-region was inhabitant by Slovene people. Their habitats, established on groves, standing alone or in groups of houses were linked as dispersed settlements. Single habitat units are located several hundred meters from each other with the cultivated areas aligned around them ring-wise. The inhabitants of the Vend small-region were peasants and belonged to Batthyány rule and were Catholics.

The villages of the Őrség small-region were created from guardians’ houses after the Hungarian Conquest of 896 A.D. (thus the name Őrség, meaning guard). Between the dispersed habitats there were cultivated areas, meadows, orchards. Crops were cultivated on areas surrounding these settlements. Their ancestors received local nobility in return for their military duties. Though they were ripped of their rights in the course of history, the privileged-consciousness of the people in the Őrség small-region and their persistence in their protestant faith differentiated them from neighbouring settlements.

Both the Őrség and the Vend small-regions have an abundance of archaisms. Their architecture is characterised by wooden constructions, despite strict regulations, a large number of bent and rounded-off houses and no chimneys. The inhabitants lived on hay cultivation and cattle-breeding. They cultivated their fields in forms of slash and burn and shifting cultivation, ploughing on thin stripes of land. Though the soil was hardly fertile, the good quality clay layer underneath it provided the basis for the existence of a peasant-craftsmen pottery in several villages of the region.

The dispersed settlement of the Open-Air Ethnographical Museum consists of buildings from three habitats. The oldest of them is the open kitchen house from Felsőszölnök, where the only heated premise served both as kitchen and room. The bent house of Farkasfa was also built as an open kitchen house, but at the beginning of the 19th century a room with an oven was built in front of it, thus it became an open kitchen house. The rounded-off house at Szalafő represent a type of house which once was popular but now its memory prevailed only in the Őrség small-region.

 

Vineyard

Along the Vas county leg of the Rába river grape was grown and wine made for several centuries on the ridges of the hills in southern and eastern direction. These small allotment vineyards were located at the outskirts of villages, they were protected by frontiers (the so-called “gyepű) and there was one or there were several mountain gates through which the vineyards could be entered or left. The internal areas of vineyards with fruit and chestnut trees were interspersed with slope-roads, which owners travelled with their carriages or on foot. Regularly or irregularly aligned neighbouring allotments of old vineyards were separated by balks or furrows. At the bottom of the vineyards there were meadows, orchards, chestnut trees, small vegetable gardens or cabbage fields. All works related to the grape were done on the vineyard, including wine pressing and storing both the fruit and the wine. Just like anywhere all over South-Eastern-Transdanubea the typical houses from the 18th century had wine cellars with walls made of beams, hedges or later stone and stone-fill and thatched roofs. More prosperous owners built rooms, barns and pole barns next to their open fireplaces in the corners of their one-storey houses. It was the door of the inner wine-storage that protected the most valuable good of the owner: the wine. Its door was closed with a wooden lock to keep burglars and thieves away. Almost one-third of the press-house was occupied by old, large press with a cross beam. Both the existing wine presses and the buildings on the vineyards themselves are masterpieces made by peasant joiners