Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pannonhalma--Hungary's biggest private library

When we go out to do apartment checks, on the way home we like to stop and see things that our Hungarian ancestors were involved with between 1000 and 1300. As you drive through the countryside south of Györ, you see this huge complex of buildings on top of a hill outside Pannonhalma. It houses a Benedictine monastery that was established by our royal ancestors in 1002 to help Christianize the Hungarians.

Here's the entrance.

As you can see, the complex has been built and rebuilt many times through the centuries as various wars took place in the area. The version today is less than 200 years old, much rebuilt in the past century and since the fall of communism in 1990 and houses a secondary boarding school for 300 students as well as a monastery for 50 monks.

Only a few things date back to when our ancestors visited the place. If you click on the picture, you can see the date. These faces represent some of the deadly sins and vices that that the monks needed to avoid. Which sins do you think these represent? Your guess is a good as ours.

Here is the baptismal font from the 1200s. Do you think you would fit in?

What we thought was most interesting was the library, built about 200 years ago. Are you reminded of Harry Potter and Beauty and the Beast?

It houses the largest private library in Hungary with over 400,000 volumes. When the Turks took over in the 16th Century and turned the complex into a mosque, much of the library went missing. When the monks returned a century later, they worked to replace as much as they could. If you click on this closeup, you can see how they protect the books behind a wire screen. They had portable dehumidifiers stationed throughout the room.

If you happen to daydream while in the library, perhaps this portrait on the ceiling of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, will inspire you to get back to studying.

This doesn't seem to be a "working" library--more of a showpiece for tourists. They probably have the library that the monks and students use with computers and modern books elsewhere, though if you look closely at the pictures you can see doors that lead to hidden back rooms.

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