The early history of the Zirc monastery is obscure as regards both names and dates, on account of its being so often referred to under both these titles: whether Zirc and Boccon were separate abbeys cannot now be definitely determined. It seems most probable that the foundation was made by Béla III, King of Hungary (1182), as the monastic domain was formerly a royal farm. Besides this grant, on which now stands the city of Zirc, many other donations were made to the nascent abbey, which soon became one of the most celebrated in the country. It was rich not only in temporal possessions but also in the spirit of fervor and religious regularity. In 1232 the foundation of Kutjevo Abbey in the present Croatia was made from Zirc, which became its mother-house.
This happy state continued for three centuries, but decadence set in before the end of the fifteenth century, and by 1526 the ravages of the Ottoman invasion of Hungary had depopulated the monastery, not one religious remaining at the end of the year. The buildings and possessions passed into the hands of laymen.
In the seventeenth century (1609) it was acquired by Canon Mihály Monoszlay. Thenceforth it remained the property of ecclesiastics, and in 1659 it was given to Holweis, Abbot of the Cistercian Lilienfeld Abbey, who appointed Márton Újfalusy (1660) its abbot, thus reviving it. From the jurisdiction of Lilienfeld it was transferred successively to that of Klostermarienberg Abbey (1678) and Heinrichau Abbey (1700). From the latter abbey came a number of religious who gradually restored first the monastic buildings and church (consecrated 1745) and then regular observance in its primitive vigour.
In 1810 the community, in common with many others, was expelled, but was restored in 1814 under Abbot Antonius Dreta, from which time the abbey prospered more than ever before. Under his administration the abbeys at Pilis and Pásztó were united to Zirc, as was likewise, in 1878, the abbey at Szentgotthárd. In 1923 the Congregation of Zirc was established.
Zirc Abbey was dissolved in 1950, and its church became a parish church. The monastery was re-established in 1989 and maintains residences in Eger, Baja, Budapest, Pécs and Székesfehérvár.References:
The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, future Madame de Pompadour and Molière, who was also married here in the 17th century. The last rites for Anne of Austria, Turenne and Mirabeau were pronounced within its walls. Marie de Gournay is buried there.
The origins of Saint Eustache date back to 13th century. The church became a parish church in 1223, thanks to a man named Jean Alais who achieved this by taxing the baskets of fish sold nearby, as granted by King Philip Augustus. To thank such divine generosity, Alais constructed a chapel dedicated to Sainte-Agnès, a Roman martyr. The construction of the current church began in 1532, the work not being finally completed until 1637. The name of the church refers to Saint Eustace, a Roman general of the second century AD who was burned, along with his family, for converting to Christianity, and it is believed that it was the transfer of a relic of Saint Eustache from the Abbey to Saint-Denis to the Church of Saint Eustache which resulted in its naming. Jeanne Baptiste d"Albert de Luynes was baptised here.
According to tourist literature on-site, during the French Revolution the church, like most churches in Paris, was desecrated, looted, and used for a time as a barn. The church was restored after the Revolution had run its course and remains in use today. Several impressive paintings by Rubens remain in the church today. Each summer, organ concerts commemorate the premieres of Berlioz’s Te Deum and Liszt’s Christus here in 1886.
The church is an example of a Gothic structure clothed in Renaissance detail. The church is relatively short in length at 105m, but its interior is 33.45m high to the vaulting. At the main façade, the left tower has been completed in Renaissance style, while the right tower remains a stump. The front and rear aspects provide a remarkable contrast between the comparatively sober classical front and the exuberant rear, which integrates Gothic forms and organization with Classical details. The L"écoute sculpture by Henri de Miller appears outside the church, to the south. A Keith Haring sculpture stands in a chapel of the church.
The Chapel of the Virgin was built in 1640 and restored from 1801 to 1804. It was inaugurated by Pius VII on the 22nd of December, 1804 when he came to Paris for the coronation of Napoleon. The apse chapel, with a ribbed cul-de-four vault, has at its centre a sculpture of the Virgin and Child of Jean-Baptiste Pigalle that the painter Thomas Couture highlighted by three large paintings.
With 8,000 pipes, the organ is reputed to be the largest pipe organ in France, surpassing the organs of Saint Sulpice and Notre Dame de Paris. The organ originally constructed by P.-A. Ducroquet was powerful enough for the premiere of Hector Berlioz" titanic Te Deum to be performed at St-Eustache in 1855.