Benedictine Order in Hungary (Hungarian: Benedekrend, Bencésrend; Latin: Ordo Sancti Benedicti – OSB) – The oldest monastic order of the Roman Catholic Church, thus the oldest monastic order of Western Christianity. The order was founded by St Benedict of Nursia (ca. 480-550-553), in his hermit cave near Subiaco. Its basic principle, laid down by St Benedict, was a moderation instead of severity in monastic life and in perfect Christian life in the spirit of the Gospels. Near his cave St Benedict established 12 monasteries or abbeys with 12 monks in each. He also established the Monastery at Monte Cassino in 529; here he established the rules (regula) for monastic life. The head of the Monastery was the abbot, like the father of a family, to whom the other monks show filial obedience. He determined the chief virtues of monastic life: self-restraint, silence, humility, poverty and diligence, which combine a contemplative, meditative life with an active life. Another characteristic Benedictine virtue is hospitality.
In Hungary the foundations of the first Benedictine Abbey were laid down by Reigning Prince Géza at Pannonhalma (near Győr in northwest Transdanubia) in 996. His son, King István I (St Stephen, 997-1038) confirmed Géza’s foundation, provided it with a deed of foundation in 1002, and granted the same rights to the Abbey of Pannonhalma, as those enjoyed by Monte Cassino. According to these rights the Abbot of Pannonhalma in his own area commands the same jurisdiction as a bishop. St Stephen founded the Abbeys of Pécsvárad, Bakonybél, Zalavár and Zoborhegy. To a large extent the King was assisted by the Benedictines in his spreading of Christianity and European culture. Bishop St Gellért, who became a martyr, was also a Benedictine monk. Apparently, it was Astrik, the Abbot of Pécsvárad Monastery, who brought the Holy Crown of Hungary from Rome, from Pope Sylvester II for the coronation of St Stephen, the first king of Hungary. The first Hungarian writer, St. Mór, Bishop of Pécs (from 1036), was also a Benedictine monk; he was the author of a Latin legend: biography of the hermits Benedek and Andrew. The successors of St Stephen continued his activities of founding Benedictine monasteries: King Sámuel Aba at the foot of the Mátra Mountain; then in 1055 King András I (Andrew) founded the Tihany Abbey (on the peninsula in Lake Balaton); King Béla I (1060-1063) at Szekszárd and Kolozsmonostor; King Géza I (1074-1077) at Garamszentbenedek; in 1091 King St László (Ladislas, 1077-1095) settled French Benedictine friars at Somogyvár (south of Lake Balaton) and founded other abbeys at Kolos, Szentjobb and Báta (north of Mohács) and King Béla II (1131-1141) founded a monastery at Dunaföldvár on the banks of the Danube. The Mongol (Tartar) invasion and destruction of the Kingdom in 1241-1242, as well as the 150-year long occupation of Hungary by the Ottoman Turks (1526-1698) seriously affected the life and activities of the Benedictine Order. The well-defensible abbey of Pannonhalma, built of stone, escaped total destruction; but the other abbeys could not escape, 40 of them had never recovered. In 1501, Máté Tolnai became abbot at Pannonhalma. In 1586 only some troops remained there, all the monks fled. Before the Turks were driven out from Hungary, Mátyás Pálffy became the abbot at Pannonhalma and re-established life there. The abbeys of Bakonybél, Dömölk and Tihany reappeared again. The Habsburg Emperor József (Joseph II, 1780-1790) abolished the order in 1786, as well as all the other orders. However, when King Ferenc I (Francis, 1792-1835) ascended the imperial throne, the Benedictines were reestablished in 1802, first at Pannonhalma, with the stipulation, that the monks provide teaching staff for 6 high schools in country towns. In 1842 there were 150 regular clergy and 40 clerics in the Order. By 1936 the official documents show 279 Benedictine members for the Order. The Head of the Order in Hungary is the Senior Abbot of Pannonhalma. There are four abbeys under the Senior Abbey of Pannonhalma: Bakonybél, Celldömölk, Tihany and Zalaapáti. The Primate of Hungary in the interwar years was Cardinal Jusztinian Serédi, also a member of the Order. The Benedictine theological and teacher-training college was functioning at Pannonhalma until 1948. In addition, the Benedictines carry out their teaching activities in boys’ high schools: in Budapest, Esztergom, Győr, Komárom, Kőszeg, Pápa, Sopron, and since 1945, also at Csepel (a new high school). A Hungarian-founded high school also exists in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Benedictine friars perform their pastoral duties in 25 parishes. Their 1948 membership consisted of 221 ordained monastic teachers, 52 seminarists and 4 brethren. During the Communist regime, while Hungary was under Soviet military occupation (1945-1989), the Benedictine Order was only allowed to keep the Abbey of Pannonhalma and its high school, as well as its school and convent at Győr. Since the political change in 1989, the Order revived and resumed its regular activity. – B: 0945, 1068, 1344, T: 7456.→Pannonhalma; Árpád, House of; Catholic Church in Hungary; Religious Orders in Hungary.