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Name of Monument:

Cistercian Abbey of Zirc

Also known as:

Roman Catholic Church of the Virgin Mary

Location:

Zirc, Veszprém County, Hungary

Contact DetailsCistercian Abbey of Zirc
Rákóczi tér. 1
8420 Zirc
T : +36 88 593 641
F : +36 88 593 830
E : zirc@ocist.hu
Zirc Congregation of the Cistercian Order, Cistercian Order (Ordo Cisterciensis; OCist); Catholic Church in Hungary, Diocese of Szombathely (Responsible Institution)

Date:

1726—1752; 1770s

Artists:

Architect: Martin (Athanasius) Wittwer (1667–1732), Mátyás Kayr (1689–1735); painters: Franz Anton Maulbertsch (1724–1796), József Wagenmeister; organ maker: Péter Peking; painter/gilder: György Seidler

Denomination / Type of monument:

Religious architecture, abbey, church and monastery

Patron(s):

Cistercian Order, István Dubniczay, Prebendary of Veszprém

History:

The Cistercian Abbey of Zirc was founded by King Béla III of the Árpád dynasty in the heart of the forests of Bakony in 1182. Construction of the monastery lasted several decades. The founding monks came to Zirc from Clairvaux, one of the most renowned mother monasteries of the Cistercian order.

The Cistercian order, which had flourished in earlier times, began to wane from the 14th century in Hungary as well as elsewhere. After a brief recovery under the rule of King Mátyás Hunyadi, the order continued to decline during the wars against the Turks and Ottoman rule in Hungary. The deserted abbey of Zirc was requisitioned by the Abbey of Lilienfeld in 1659, which appointed Márton Ujfalussy a Lilienfeld monk of Hungarian origin, as the Abbot of Zirc in 1660. Following the assassination of Ujfalussy in 1678, the abbots of Lilienfeld bore the title of Abbot of Zirc as well, and Hungarian members of the order only attended Zirc as “administrators”.

In 1699, the Cistercian Abbey of Heinrichau in Silesia (Henryków, Poland) was requisitioned by Zirc Abbey. Silesian settlers built houses in the village, and the monks from Heinrichau raised a small chapel, which was demolished during the Rákóczi uprising of the Hungarians against the Habsburgs (1703–1711). Between 1715 and 1718 a new wave of settlers arrived in Zirc. During this time the monks from Heinrichau were situated in nearby Pápa and, in 1723, built a temporary monastery in Zirc from where they supervised the construction of the Baroque building complex that began in 1726 on the basis of plans by Martin (Athanasius) Wittwer.

The one-storey monastery was complete by 1732 and in the same year the foundation stone of the church was laid. The church, which was also probably designed by Martin Wittwer (and according to some scholars also Mátyás Kayr), was built using spolia from the medieval church. The walls, pillars, window traceries and the vaults of the east-side transept chapels were still standing at the time; the west gable was blown up in the winter of 1738. A Baroque statue of St. Emeric stands today on what remains of the lower section of one of the medieval pillars. The church was consecrated in honour of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary by Bishop Márton Padányi Bíró in 1752.

The western towers of the church were extended in 1854, and the stone spires placed on top of them in 1858. The altarpieces and the furniture were finished in the 1750s. The interior frescoes, completed in the 1740s, were heavily repainted in the 19th century; they only regained their original 18th-century appearance during the restoration of 1997–2005.

At first the church organ – made in Pozsony (Bratislava) in 1752 – was probably located in the sanctuary; then a second organ was designed for the organ-loft. In 1770 the organ-maker, Péter Peking, created a new organ for the sanctuary, which was repaired once in the 19th century and again in the 20th century. The organ has since been replaced several times and its lower structure restored under professional supervision.

The 18th-century monastery was rebuilt and extended in the Classical style in the 19th century. Another storey was added to the west wing between 1844 and 1847.  At the same time, the two-storey east wing, the abbot's residence, library and the “Red Tower” were built. The Baroque library used to be located in the room above the vestry.

Silesia fell under Prussian control in 1742; the Abbey of Heinrichau was dissolved by the Prussian government in 1810, and Zirc Abbey regained its independence in 1814. In 1923, Pope Pius XI founded the Zirc Congregation of the Cistercian Order. In 1948, all five schools run by the order were nationalised, and the monasteries dissolved in 1950. Since 1982, the church has borne the title “basilica minor”. In 1989, the monastic orders were reinstated in Hungary, and from 1990, monastic duties were also revived in Zirc. Between 1993 and 1997 the order began to reinstate their schools; in 1994 they had repossessed one-third of Zirc Abbey and by 2002 almost the whole building was once again used by the Cistercian order.

Description:

The one-nave church, which was probably designed by Martin Wittwer (and according to some scholars, also Mátyás Kayr), is extended by side chapels and has a sanctuary that closes horizontally. The two western towers of the one-nave church were later extended. The western facade, which boasts both Baroque and Classical features, is richly articulated with pillars, statue-niches and windows, and decorated with coats of arms. In the gable niche of the facade is a statue of the Virgin Mary, while in the niches above the doors that lead to the towers, are the statues of St. Benedict and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. The three frescoes in the entrance hall are the work of József Wagenmeister from Pest, painted between 1744 and 1748. The main altar, donated by István Dubniczay, Prebendary of Veszprém, is sumptuously gilded and decorated with columns and statues. The main altarpiece painting, Assumption of the Virgin Mary, is by Franz Anton Maulbertsch of 1754. The oval painting on the Altar of the Holy Cross, Mary Magdalene at the Cross, is also probably by Maulbertsch.
The opulently decorated furniture was carved mainly by Pauline masters from Pápa. The pulpit balustrade (the work of an unknown master) is decorated with scenes from the New Testament, including the Nativity of Jesus, the Resurrection of Christ and the Coming of the Holy Spirit. The richly carved organ case was painted and gilded by György Seidler, the last lay-brother artist.
The internationally renowned 20-hectare Cistercian arboretum, which lies to south of the church and monastery, is a nature reserve.

View Short Description

The Cistercian Abbey of Zirc, founded by King Béla III in the 12th century, was rebuilt between 1732 and 1752 using spolia from the medieval abbey. The 18th-century monastery was designed by Martin Wittwer, and probably the church as well. The two western towers of the one-nave church were later extended. The church is augmented with chapels and bears a sanctuary that closes horizontally. Franz Anton Maulbertsch painted the main altarpiece, and the frescoes are by József Wagenmeister. The opulently decorated furniture was carved mainly by Pauline masters from Pápa.
The monastery houses an internationally renowned library.

How Monument was dated:

Based on written and visual sources, and local research.

Selected bibliography:

Horvát, K., Zirc története. (History of Zirc) Zirci könyvek I., Veszprém, 1930.
Aggházy, M., A zirci apátság templomépítkezései a XVIII. században (The Construction of Zirc Abbey in the 18th century), Veszprém, 1937.
Hervay, F., Zirc, apátsági templom. (Zirc, abbey church), Tájak-Korok-Múzeumok Kiskönyvtára 681, Budapest, 2001.
A ciszterci rend Magyarországon és Közép-Európában. Művelődéstörténeti Műhely (The Cistercian Order in Hungary and in Central Europe: History of Civilization Workshop) Rendtörténeti Konferenciák 5 (Conferences about the History of Order), Szerk. (ed. B. Guitman), Piliscsaba, 2009.

Citation of this web page:

Terézia  Bardi "Cistercian Abbey of Zirc" in "Discover Baroque Art", Museum With No Frontiers, 2017. http://www.discoverbaroqueart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;BAR;hu;Mon11;6;en

Prepared by: Terézia BardiTerézia Bardi

SURNAME: Bardi
NAME: Terézia Anna

AFFILIATION: National Trust of Monuments for Hungary

TITLE: Art Historian, Vice Director for Research at The National Trust of
Monuments for Hungary; MWNF DBA local co-ordinator (Hungary), author
and copy-editor

CV:
Terézia Bardi, Vice Director for Research at the National Trust of Monuments for Hungary since 2004, was awarded her MA in History and History of Art at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. After a period of fellowships mainly in Italy, Terézia gained her PhD from the Faculty of Art History at the same university for her thesis Presentation and Representation – the European Reception of the Liberation of Buda in 1686: Feast and Public Opinion. Her main fields of research are 17th-and18th-century Baroque and Rococo: the spectacles, festival decorations and associated iconography – including theatre productions of the period – and interior decoration of historic houses. Since 1988, she has edited a number of art historical books that include some on Oriental art and architecture. She is MWNF DBA’s local (Hungarian) co-ordinator, author and copy-editor.

Copyedited by: Terézia BardiTerézia Bardi

SURNAME: Bardi
NAME: Terézia Anna

AFFILIATION: National Trust of Monuments for Hungary

TITLE: Art Historian, Vice Director for Research at The National Trust of
Monuments for Hungary; MWNF DBA local co-ordinator (Hungary), author
and copy-editor

CV:
Terézia Bardi, Vice Director for Research at the National Trust of Monuments for Hungary since 2004, was awarded her MA in History and History of Art at the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest. After a period of fellowships mainly in Italy, Terézia gained her PhD from the Faculty of Art History at the same university for her thesis Presentation and Representation – the European Reception of the Liberation of Buda in 1686: Feast and Public Opinion. Her main fields of research are 17th-and18th-century Baroque and Rococo: the spectacles, festival decorations and associated iconography – including theatre productions of the period – and interior decoration of historic houses. Since 1988, she has edited a number of art historical books that include some on Oriental art and architecture. She is MWNF DBA’s local (Hungarian) co-ordinator, author and copy-editor.

Translation by: Judit Harangozó, Philip Barker
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: HU 06

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