Mária Lupescu Makó: Material Culture in the Mirror of the Testaments. The Art of the Home in Cluj in the First Half of the Sixteenth Century (p. 50-77)

It is well known that most of the available written sources consist of documents referring to the right of possession. Fortunately, besides them, there were other sources as well, whose coming into being was motivated by other factors.  Their value lies in their distinct character. A significant part of them is constituted by the testaments reflecting the end of the life of the deceased. The awareness of the end of human life had a decisive impact on the thoughts and deeds of medieval people. The wish to achieve the best possible reputation in the community of survivors - what was even more important - before God and his heavenly community prompted men and women, old and young alike, to provide for the time after their death. Before crossing the threshold of eternity, composing a testament was also the last chance for the testators to deal with mundane matters, with goods acquired during their lives, and to take care of people from whom they would soon be irretrievably distant. The present study intends to provide answers to a series of questions concerning the material cultural of Cluj burghers based on the last wills and testaments from the late Middle Ages. With the help of these testaments the author hopes to offer a picture about everyday life and about the closer environment, in other words, about the home of the citizens of Cluj. From the methodological point of view the author is conscious that the examination of the data of the testaments referring to everyday life and material culture can be possible only if one is aware of the fact that a limited amount of data is at our disposal from the point of view of the content. Even if it may often seem that the testaments are almost inexhaustible sources of information referring to everyday culture, it can not be disregarded that they were created on the approach of death, and so they were adapted to appropriate communication skills. Thus, in the opinion of the author the best use of the data of the testaments is to approach them from the perspective of the objects. So, it is not the aim of Lupescu Makó to examine what was left out from the testaments and what else the legato may have possessed, but to deal with what they contain, and what these objects were like - as they did possess these goods and they were important for them for some reason. By such an object-oriented study of the testaments the author hopes to draw conclusions referring to the whole of the household as well.

            The author made a survey of the personal property mentioned in medieval testaments from Cluj by grouping them according to the function of the objects. Thus, seven categories of objects were identified by the author: jewels, clothes, bed-clothes and other upholstery, dishes, devotional objects, furniture, and instruments of labour. Their number makes it possible for Lupescu Makó to carry out both a qualitative, descriptive and a quantitative approach. It seems that the division of the objects according to the types of objects shows the predominance of the possessions connected to individuals, which are suitable for representation as well. In her survey the author started from the objects of strictly personal use, and presented the main types within the groups. After the descriptions of the objects - depending on the details of the data - she made an attempt to examine the relationship between the objects and the homes of Cluj by surveying the owners and inheritors of the objects. Closing her study with a conclusions-part, the author managed to illustrate the home of the late medieval Cluj citizens. However, as she has pointed out, this picture can be more concrete by using the data resulting from the analyses of similar results of other branches of various disciplines.