Matyo embroidery, a ransom to the Devil
When a piece of clothing fails to be stylish or tasteful, Hungarians often say “nem egy matyóhímzés” (“it is not a Matyo embroidery”). But what is the origin of this unique style of needlework? The answer can be found in Mezőkövesd, Eastern Hungary, as NLCafe highlighted.
The institute of Matyo folk art and costume collection was opened on 26 July 1953 in a former inn. The atmosphere of the place takes visitors back two centuries in history. Matyo embroidery played a vital role in clothing at that time.
Matyóföld (Matyo Land) lies in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county and consists of three settlements: Mezőkövesd, Szentistván and Tard. Meződövesd became a town in 1464 due to the provision of King Matthias.
According to legend, the area was named Matyóföld after the name of the king.
The world-famous embroidery has a history of more than two hundred years. This type became more popular in 1886, when a folk-art exhibition was hosted in Városliget. Many experts and merchants noticed the unique pieces of embroidery. Mezőkövesd became famous in an instant not only in Hungary, but beyond the borders as well. Matyo embroidery gained such a success that 400 women were sewing in a workshop in Mezőkövesd by 1911 to satisfy the customer demands. 40 additional ladies were also employed only to design the pieces. By 1950, the manufacture was producing masses of blouses, textiles and dolls. The local carpenters also gained fame by that time with their painted furniture.
The most known motif of the clothing is the red rose.
According to the myth, once the Devil kidnapped a Matyo bride’s groom and demanded a heap of roses as ransom. Unfortunately, it was in the middle of winter so no flowers were blooming at that time. The clever maiden, however, sewed a bulk of red roses on her huge apron. The Devil liked the bride’s handiwork so much that he had no choice but to set the groom free, so they held the wedding without any problem.
Folk tradition claimed that, no matter how poor a Matyo is, the decorated clothing cannot be missed.
If they have to starve for days in order to get one, they do, but not having Matyo embroidery has been a great shame in this area.
The colors have a certain symbolism. Black is the color of the earth, the origin of life. Red means joy, yellow refers to the Sun, blue means sorrow and passing. The Great War also brought the color of green into Matyo folk art, referring to mourning. Matyo embroidery is stylish nowadays: both Hungarian and foreigner celebrities like to wear it.
On 5 December 2012, a new entry was created on UNESCO’s list of humanity’s intellectual and cultural heritage: “Matyo folk art, embroidery of a traditional community”.