The Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma is one of the oldest historical monuments in Hungary, on top of St Martin-hill (282m), next to the town of Pannonhalma. The patron saint of the abbey, Saint Martin of Tours is believed to have been born at the foot of this hill.
The abbey was founded in 996 by Prince Géza who designated this as a place for the monks to settle and then it soon became the centre of the Benedictine order. Géza's son, King Stephen I completed the construction and donated estates and privilege to the monastery. Astrik (Anastasius) served as its first abbot. The first buildings of the community were destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in 1137. The Basilica's pillars and the early Gothic vault were built in the early 13th century by abbot Urias, using the walls of the former church. In 1486 the church was reconstructed under King Matthias in the Gothic style and supplemented by a cloister.
The monastery became an archabbey in 1541 and as a result of Ottoman incursions into Europe in the XVIth and XVIIth centuries, it was turned into a fortification. During one and a half centuries of the Turkish occupation, the monks had to abandon the abbey for shorter or longer periods of time. Only later were they able to start the reconstruction of the damaged buildings.
In the XVII-XVIIIth centuries, rich Baroque adornments and extensions were added to the complex and much of its current facade dates from that time. The beautiful Baroque refectory was a result of this reconstruction. The monastery received its present form in 1832, with the library and the tower which was built in classicistic style. The era of the Enlightenment in the XVIIIth century also influenced the life of the monasteries. The state and the monarchs judged the operation of religious orders according to immediate utility, by and large tolerating only those orders which practised nursing and education. In the 1860s, Ferenc Storno organised major renovations, mostly in the basilica.
In 1995, one year before the millennium, the complex was entirely reconstructed and renovated. In 1996, "the Millenary Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma and its Natural Environment" has been afforded the classification of UNESCO World Heritage site.
The earliest part of the Basilica is the nave and the Crypt, both dating from the 13th century. The entrance to the cloister opens through the remarkable XIIIth century Porta speciosa. The monumental Library with 360,000 volumes, including medieval manuscripts and several incunabula is a must.
Today there are about 50 monks living in the monastery. The Benedictine Secondary School, a boys' boarding school operates within the abbey.
The Rule of Saint Benedict finds it rather desirable that the monks earn their living from their own labour. This is why monasteries have traditionally placed an emphasis on labour in addition to prayer. In the early times, labour meant primarily agriculture and handicraft. From 1950 the Hungarian Benedictines were restricted to secondary education as the only possibility of work. Since the end of the communist regime in Hungary, the archabbey and the monks have had the chance to rediscover new areas of work as well, in accordance with the Benedictine tradition. Among the produces made by monks, you will find liqueurs, wine, herb tea, chocolate, lavender, soap and music which can be purchased in the shops of the monastery.
The Archabbey offers guided tours for visitors, starting from the reception building next to the car park. Guests gain insight into the life of the Benedictine monastic community by viewing a short film.
For further information about the guided tours and other programmes of the Abbey, please contact the staff of the TriCollis Guided Tour Office of Pannonhalma Archabbey.
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