Pécsvárad is in the southern part of Hungary, it can be found on the southern slope of the Mecsek mountain. It is famous for its Benedictine Monastery Fortress. The abbey of Pécsvárad was founded and consecrated on August 15, 1015, by King István (Stephen I) on the side of the Mecsek, at “Mons Ferrus”, at the foot of Vashegy.
According to other sources, the first Hungarian king established it a few years before his coronation, after he had defeated the rebel forces of the “pagan” Koppány. At the time of the founding, there was a stone building at Pécsvárad that used to belong to the king’s father, Géza. István equipped the church with lavish generosity and endowed it with 41 villages. This was the second monastery of the Benedictines in Hungary, the first was Pannonhalma (founded in 966 AD).
Astrik or Ascherik, the abbot of the Polish monastery of Meseritz, settled here with several of his companions. He was the one who was sent to Rome by the king to “reclaim” the Hungarians’ crown from the Pope. The Benedictine monks had a principle: „Ora et labora” (Pray and work) and indeed, their agriculture technology was the most updated in Europe.
The abbey was the home of the son of Prince Álmos, Béla who was blinded so as to make him unable for running the kingdom. He lived there between 1125 and 1128 but regardless of his blindness, later he sat on the throne. between 1131 and 1141. He granted lots of gifts to the abbey, out of his gratitude. Pécsvárad is not far from Pécs, you can read more about it here:
During the reign of King Géza II, the monastery burned down between 1141-1162, and then it was rebuilt: a second floor was added to the building. The Barbican bastion with a drawbridge was built, too. During the reign of King Béla, it became a place of great importance, and its abbots attended even the royal council.
The abbey had the right to issue official documents between 1254 and 1526. The Gothic church was built in the 13th century. The abbey, which was destroyed during the Mongolian invasion in 1241, was already surrounded by a wall that was promptly restored. The abbey did not lose the influence of the Church during the Anjou kings, either. As a city, it was first mentioned in 1333.
In the middle of the 14th century, in 1357, Abbot Jordan built a palace at great expense, then when at the end of 1391 a man called Csömémi Imre, a member of the convent, became abbot here (1391-1409). He built into the castle an irregular tower with an outer tower. In this time, a few castle masters (castellans) are mentioned, including Zalai István and Ulrik in 1453. By the time of Governor Hunyadi János, Pécsvárad already had 200 guards. (Please note, I use the Eastern name order for Hungarians where family names come first.)
At the news of the approaching Turks, the monks fled in 1539. Its abbot was Martinuzzi György at that time, he played a major role in the history of Transylvania. He wanted to strengthen the castle, so he turned to King Ferdinand for financial help. However, help was not provided, so on the order of Martinuzzi, Captain Horváth Sándor blew the castle up. He didn’t want to cede it to the enemy in a good condition.
However, the Turks occupied the ruined and abandoned place only in 1543. They repaired it, placed a guard in it, and kept it in their possession for 150 years. The town was declining during the Turkish occupation. Its inhabitants became Calvinists. The Christians liberated it in 1686 but the monks have never returned. The Catholic German population arrived only after 1689.
After the expulsion of the Turks, the abbey was donated by King Leopold I to new settlers, of whom only Archbishop Konrád Zinzendorff restored it in 1729. It was then that it received its present look, and it was in the time that the new gate entrance was built on the eastern section of the northern wall of the castle. The former two towers of Pécsvárad no longer exist today, only the third, a late Gothic tower stands on the northwest corner of the castle.
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