The Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey or Territorial Abbey of Pannonhalma (lat. Archiabbatia or Abbatia Territorialis Sancti Martini in Monte Pannoniae) is the most notable landmark in Pannonhalma and one of the oldest historical monuments in Hungary, founded in 996. It is located near the town, on top of a hill (282 m). Saint Martin of Tours is believed to have been born at the foot of this hill, hence its former name, Mount of Saint Martin (Hungarian: Márton-hegy), from which the monastery occasionally took the alternative name of Márton-hegyi Apátság. This is the second largest territorial abbey in the World, after the one in Monte Cassino.
Its notable sights include the Basilica with the Crypt (built in the 13th century), the Cloisters, the monumental Library with 360,000 volumes, the Baroque Refectory (with several examples of trompe l'oeil) and the Archabbey Collection (the second biggest in the country). Today there are about 50 monks living in the monastery. The abbey is supplemented by the Benedictine High School, a boys' boarding school.
It was founded as the first Hungarian Benedictine monastery 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. The monastery was built in honour of Saint Martin of Tours. Géza's son, King Stephen I donated estates and privileges to the monastery. Astrik (Anastasius) served as its first abbot.
The oldest surviving document to use the Hungarian language, the Charter of the Tihany Benedictine Abbey, dating back to 1055, is still preserved in the library. The first buildings of the community were destroyed in 1137, then rebuilt. The Basilica's pillars and the early Gothic vault were built in the early 13th century, using the walls of the former church. In 1486 the abbey was reconstructed under King Matthias in the Gothic style.
The Building Complex
Basilica and Crypt
The present church of Pannonhalma, a crowning achievement of the early Gothic style, was built at the beginning of the 13th century during the reign of Abbot Uros, and was consecrated most likely in 1224. Recent archaeological findings under the floor Level of the west end of the basilica date from the 11th century. The oldest segment currently seen in the basilica is the wall of the southern aisle. Dating from the 12th century, it is a remnant of the second church to stand on the site, consecrated in 1137 during the reign of Abbot DáVid.
Porta Speciosa and The Cloister
In the Middle Ages one of the main entrances to the church was the Porta Speciosa (ornate entrance). This portal leads to the church from the cloister (quadrum or quadratura) and it was crafted also in the 13th century. In the Renaissance Pannonhalma was rather depopulated (with not more than 6 or 7 monks). Under King Matthias' rule, in 1472, today's cloister was created. The constructions were probably finished in 1486, as it is testified by the inscription on one of the cornerstones.
The library was finished in the first third of the 19th century. The longitudinal part of the building was planned and built by Ferenc Engel in the 1820s. Later János Packh was commissioned with extending the edifice, and the oval hall is his work. Joseph Klieber, a Vienna master was asked to ornament the interior of the building.
In the 18th century Archabbot Benedek Sajghó (1722–1768) had the Carmelite brother Atanáz Márton Witwer design the baroque elements of the monastery. The construction of the two-story high, rectangular shaped hall with cavetto vault probably dates to the second half of the 1720s. The paintings (secco) on the walls were created between 1728 and 1730 by Davide Antonio Fossati, a Swiss artist who later settled in Venice.
The Millennium Monument
In order to celebrate the millennium of the Magyars' settlement in 896, seven monuments were erected in the Carpathian Mountain Basin in 1896. One of them can still be seen today in Pannonhalma. The edifice was originally covered by a 26-metre high, double-shell dome with a colossal brass relief on it representing the Hungarian royal crown. Due to its deterioration, however, the outer shell had to be dismantled in 1937–1938, and the building took its present form.
The Pannonhalma Archives of the Benedictine Archabbey contains one of the richest and most valuable collections of documents from the first centuries of the Hungarian statehood. It includes the monastery's interpolated charter (1001–1002) from Saint Stephen, the founding charter of the Tihany Abbey (1055), the first known written text to include Hungarian words and phrases. The records of the medieval Pannonhalma, a monastery with the rights to issue official documents (locus authenticus), and the records of the Bakonybél, the Tihany and the Dömölk abbeys constitute separate entities.
Wine making started in the Pannonhalma-Sokoróalja region when Benedictine monks founded the monastery of Pannonhalma in 996. Social and political turmoil following World War II made it impossible to continue the centuries-old traditions, since both the properties and the winery were taken over by the Communist state. In the ensuing decades, monks living in Pannonhalma did not give up hope of resuscitating their wine-making traditions. Since the fall of Communism, the monks have revived the viticultural traditions and the wineries.