The Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma near Győr is the largest and oldest monastery in Hungary. Besides the historical cloister, the valuable library and the magnificent basilica, there is also a beautiful medicinal herb garden and the exquisitely equipped wine cellar to visit.
The Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma is located in the Hungarian village of the same name in northwestern Hungary about 20km south of Győr. Hungary's largest and oldest monastery is still inhabited by Benedictine monks and is considered the starting point of Christianity in Hungary. In 1996, 1,000 years after its founding, Pannonhalma was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The abbey also has a fixed place on our list of the top 10 sights of Hungary.
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Tour of the Pannonhalma Abbey
The interiors of the historic monastery can only be visited on a guided tour, which includes a visit to the basilica, the cloister and the library. The botanical garden of the monastery can be explored on your own. The medicinal herbs that are lovingly tended there can be purchased in the souvenir store, as can the excellent wines grown in the Pannonhalma wine region.
A visit to the Millennium Monument from 1896, the Chapel of Our Lady and the unique glass gallery is also not to be missed.
Splendid furnishings of the Pannonhalma Abbey
Inside the church, some components can still be seen today, which are over 600 years old. The magnificent Porta Speciosa ("Monks' Gate"), a side portal with five double columns decorated with ornate plant tendrils, which leads from the cloister into the church, is the only preserved early Gothic portal in Hungary. The valuable frescoes on the wall in the c loister also date from the 14th and 15th centuries. Unfortunately, they could not be completely uncovered, as they are hidden by a supporting wall.
The oldest part of the church, which survived the dark Middle Ages intact, are the impressive vaults of the crypt. In it the crown princess-widow Stephanie of Austria-Hungary and her husband Prince Elemér Lónyay are buried. Since 2011, the urn with the heart of the last Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, Otto Habsburg-Lorraine, also rests in the crypt of Pannonhalma.
Precious library of Pannonhalma Abbey
The fantastic collection of documents, which can still be consulted today, is considered the oldest in Hungary. The impressive ceremonial room of the library contains 360,000 volumes, including the first manuscripts in Hungarian, which makes the library one of the most important in Europe.
In the years 1001 and 1002, Pannonhalma was placed directly under the Holy See in Rome by King Stephen I and obliged to pray for its existence. The document in which this is recorded is still one of the most valuable documents in an incredibly extensive library of the abbey. Dating back to 1093, it contains a document that records all the wealth of the monastery, including the 200 works that were kept in the monastery library at the time.
Also the so-called II. Code of the King was adopted by the Hungarian nobility in Pannonhalma.
History of the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma
The monastery is located on Martinsberg, the original site of a Roman settlement called Sabaria, from which some stone monuments can still be seen in the courtyard of the abbey. Martin's Hill because, according to tradition, Saint Martin, the patron saint of the mon astery, was born here in the early 4th century.
The abbey was founded in 996 by Prince Géza as the first Benedictine monastery in Hungary and the Hungarian center of the Benedictine Order. Earlier the monastery was also called Monasterium Sancti Martini ("Monastery of St. Martin"), the name Pannonhalma was given to it only in 1823 by the Hungarian linguist Ferenc Kazinczy, who derived it from the foundation charter, in which the monastery was called "Mons Sacer Pannoniae" ("Holy Mountain of Pannonia").
In the dark years of the Middle Ages, Pannonhalma played an essential role in the Crusades and in the battles for the Holy Land, and during the Turkish Wars it acted as a fortification against the onrushing Ottomans. At the end of the 16th century it was taken by the Turks, but was recaptured only four years later. The abbey was again devastated by the Turks in 1683.
When the order recovered financially, reconstruction and restoration began. Some baroque elements were added and the library was expanded in the classicist style and books and documents were purchased from abandoned monasteries in Germany.
The 55m high bell tower also dates from this period of reconstruction. Other neo-Gothic elements are, for example, the stained glass windows depicting St. Martin, the pulpit or the ceiling frescoes in the monastery church.
Since 1938, with some interruptions due to political unrest, Pannonhalma has functioned as a high school and boarding school. During the Second World War the abbey was under the protection of the Red Cross and was therefore spared.