Szentgotthárd Abbey

Szentgotthárd, Hungary

Szentgotthárd Abbey is a former Cistercian monastery founded in 1183 by Hungarian King Béla III. Cistercian monks were settled there from Trois-Fontaines Abbey, France. The Cistercians started to build their new monastic centre in 1184. The building complex itself, with its 94 m by 44 m foundations, was unambitious, but capable of further extension. The monastery started to flourish soon. In the Szentgotthárd district around the new monastery, small agricultural villages were quickly established.

In 1391, King Sigismund gave the right of presentation of the Monastery in Szentgotthárd to the palatine Miklós Széchy and his son. This right at first merely meant that on the occasion of war or other fighting the warriors of the monastery marched under the Széchy’s banner and they had a say in electing the abbot. Later, the patrons wielded absolute power over the monastery, which was the occasion of many abuses.

The monastery was rebuilt into a fortified castle in those years, to serve as a defence against the advancing Ottomans. Therefore the monks were displaced. When the Cistercians wanted to return to their monastery in 1556, Margit Széchy banished them from Szentgotthárd with her armed forces. This gentlewoman, wielding the right of patronage, caused unforeseeable damage with her action. Namely, the Cistercians would definitely have defended their church and their monastery against the measure of Rudolf I’s (King of Hungary 1576-1608 and Holy Roman Emperor as Rudolf II 1576–1612) general, town-governor Wolfgang Tieffenbach, who had the valuable building complex relentlessly blown up after hearing rumours of the Bocskay uprising. One could still see the apse of the old church, where the altar stood, the traces of the ambulatory, the remains of the pillars separating the two aisles from the nave, and the place where the Cistercians used to pray, work, and celebrate mass. After 1605 the residents of Szentgotthárd had no church for seventy years and the believers had to go to nearby Rábakéthely for church services.

György Széchenyi, archbishop of Kalocsa, acquired the monastery’s right of presentation from Leopold I (King of Hungary 1640–1705 and Holy Roman Emperor). This erudite and energetic man rebuilt the ruins of the church, so with the partial use of the former stones, between 1676 and 1677, the second church of the town was built, in which there were three altars in the single nave: in honour of Saint Gotthard, the Crucified Saviour, and the Mater Dolorosa. After the third church had been built in the middle of the 18th century, this second one gradually lost its significance. Under Joseph II (József II), uncrowned King of Hungary, the church’s spire was demolished and turned into a granary. The large, unused building was finally taken in hand by the town council, and in 1988 the building was transformed into the town theatre at great expense. Today it is an essential part of the art relic group with its landscaped, pleasantly arranged surroundings.

After several ups and downs, Robert Leeb (1728–1755), the abbot of Heiligenkreuz, was able to secure the Monastery of Szentgotthárd for the Cistercian order in 1734. Five ordained priests and two laymen arrived with the first group of the new “settlers” from Heiligenkreuz. Robert Leeb commissioned Franz Anton Pilgram (1699–1761) to prepare plans for the new monastery and church. The execution of the great idea had been started in 1740 and the monks could move into the half-made building in 1746. The foundation stone of the church was laid only on 14 August 1748, but the building proceeded so fast that before the end of the rebuilding the church was blessed by Fritz Alberik, successor of Robert Leeb, who had died in the meantime. Unfortunately economic difficulties were too hard on the Abbey of Heiligenkreuz, so the original plan could not be realised. After the foundations had been built, the northern wing was never started.

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Details

Founded: 1183
Category: Religious sites in Hungary

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Veres Gabor (15 months ago)
Impressive teplom despite renovation scaffolding.
Krisztián M (15 months ago)
Under renovation, but still wonderfully beautiful interior.
Graham Speechley (2 years ago)
Beautiful building. Work inside restricts viewing hence 4 stars but only so people are not confused by my rating. Wonderful abbey.
Neville Semenovicz (2 years ago)
Good
Tibor Baranyai (2 years ago)
Good
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