Founded in 996 on a sacred mountain dedicated to St. Martin, Pannonhalma Archabbey is an active Benedictine monastery and World Heritage Site in Hungary. It welcomes visitors to explore its forested grounds and buildings, which include a 13th-century Gothic church with Baroque additions, a beautiful 19th-century library, and an ultramodern reception building.
History of Pannonhalma Archabbey
Local tradition has it that St. Martin of Tours was born at the base of Márton-hegy, a small mountain west of Budapest. In 996, Prince Géza founded a Benedictine monastery at the top of the sacred mountain, which was dedicated to St. Martin and populated with monks from Italy, Bohemia and Germany.
The monastery quickly became an important center of Christianity and medieval culture in eastern Europe. The monks of Pannonhalma Abbey successfully converted the unruly Hungarians to Christianity, founded Hungary's first school, and produced the first document in the Hungarian language in 1055.
King St. Stephen (1000-38), the founder's son and first king of Hungary, was a frequent guest; the abbey also housed Godfrey and his knights on their way to the Holy Land in the First Crusade.
The original monastery buildings burned down in the 12th century. The present abbey church at Pannonhalma was commissioned by Abbot Uros (1207-43), who had carefully studied Italian architecture during his year and a half at the Fourth Lateran Council. Abbot Uros' monastery was both beautiful and well-fortified; he successfully fought off an invasion by the Mongols from within its walls in 1241.
In 1472, the Hungarian king took over the monastery and embellished it significantly, adding the present cloisters and other monastic buildings. Pannonhalma was again fortified in 1526 due to the approaching Ottomon Turks. In 1541, it was designated an archabbey.
The Turks arrived at the abbey 50 years later, occupying it from 1594. However, by that time Pannonhalma had already suffered a fire and most of the monks had abandoned the site. The monastic community was reestablished in 1638, but did not really recover until after 1683, when Mathias Palfy became abbot.
Many Baroque elements were added to the abbey buildings, including the present refectory, under Abbot Benedek Sajgho in the 18th century. But in 1786, the monastery was closed by the Enlightenment government because it was not considered useful enough to the state.
It was once again opened in 1802 on the condition that it provide secondary education. Education had always been a primary focus of Pannonhalma Abbey, and it still hosts a school today. The 19th century saw the addition of the monastic library and extensive renovation of the church and cloister.
In 1996, the thousand-year anniversary of its foundation, UNESCO declared Pannonhalma Abbey a World Heritage Site because "from the time of its founding, this monastic community has promoted culture throughout central Europe." At that time, there were 68 monks at Pannonhalma Abbey. In addition to the secondary school (with about 360 students led by 11 monks), the abbey provides a theological school and a nursing home for the elderly.
What to See at Pannonhalma Archabbey
Pannonhalma Archabbey is situated in lovely forest with a botanic garden and boasts fine views from its hilltop site. Most visits begin at the modern Reception Building next to the parking lot, which contains an information desk, gift shop, toilets and other facilities. From here, an attractive pedestrian bridge leads to the medieval abbey.
The present abbey church was begun in 1224 in the Gothic style and contains some elements of earlier churches on the site. The main entrance is the south portal, known as the Porta Speciosa. The portal, with five pairs of red marble columns on each side, was originally created in the 13th century and has been much renovated since then.
The oldest parts of the church are the choir, with three aisles, and the crypt directly below it. The capitals in the crypt are carved in an Early Gothic style recalling the austere Cistercian tradition; the vaults are supported on consoles carved with human heads. The red doors are in a Romanesque style but date from 1699.
The adjoining cloister is in the Late Gothic style, constructed in 1486. The consoles of the vaults are decorated with symbolic motifs. The doors and windows date from the 1880s. The refectory is a large two-story hall dating from 1724-27; the impressive four-story library dates from 1824-35. The monastic cells were built in the 13th-15th centuries but extensively renovated in the early 18th century.
The Chapel of Our Lady was built on the southern hill of the monastic property in 1714. It has a single barrel-vaulted nave and a large triumphal arch at the entrance to the choir. Originally Baroque, it was remodeled in the Romantic style in 1865.
Pannonhalma is located near the city of Györ, from which trains for Veszprém (or Veszprémvarsány) stop at Pannonhalma station. The abbey is 2km from the train station.
Quick Facts on Pannonhalma Archabbey
|Names:||Márton-hegyi Apátság · Millenary Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma · Pannonhalma Archabbey · Pannonhalmi Bencés Föapátság|
|Categories:||monasteries; World Heritage Sites|
|Styles:||Gothic; Baroque style|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||47.552209° N, 17.761545° E|
Oct-Apr: 9-4 (closed Mondays)
May: 9-4 (open Mondays)
|Lodging:||View hotels near Pannonhalma Archabbey|
- Official Website of Pannonhalma Archabbey
- Millenary Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma and its Natural Environment - UNESCO World Heritage
- Photos of Pannonhalma Archabbey - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Pannonhalma Archabbey, Hungary
Below is a location map and aerial view of Pannonhalma Archabbey. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.