A small community of five villages along the Danube River in southern Hungary, Sárköz is celebrated for its highly distinctive style of folk art and dress. Peopled by Hungarians since 895 CE, the region’s swampy environment—and thus relative inaccessibility—ensured the survival of the villages even through 150 years of Ottoman Turkish occupation. These communities were among the first in Hungary to convert to Protestantism, setting themselves apart from surrounding Catholic communities by maintaining their Calvinist faith during the Counter Reformation of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
Fishing, animal husbandry, and viniculture were once the main sources of Sárköz’s economy; agriculture became dominant only in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the “taming” of the Danube created vast areas of fertile land that were ideal for cultivation. The resulting economic boom led to a blossoming of folk culture, which permeated all aspects of life, especially in the material culture reserved for special occasions. For example, the women’s clothing of Sárköz is perhaps the most ornamented and extravagant of Hungarian folk costumes in the Carpathian Basin.