Saint Maurice Monastery  

The Saint Maurice Monastery in Bakonybél is very close in age to the Hungarian State: it was founded by our fist king, Stephen I. in 1018. The first abbot was St. Gunther of Bohemia, the relative of queen Gisela. During the days of Gunther, the monastery was home only for a few monks, so it is more accurate to call it a small hermitage. In the 11th century, next to Gunther, another famous hermit chose this valley for his home: St Gerhard, who was previously the teacher of Stephen’s son, Emeric, and later the bishop of Csanád. Today’s visitors can find a little chapel in the forest, where three springs meet, about 1km away from the church building,

Our ancestors chose to dedicate the monastery to Saint Maurice. Since he is not a very common Saint in Hungary, it is interesting to see why they chose him as a patron saint. One reason can be that the monastery, where our first abbot, Gunther came from, was also a monastery dedicated to St. Maurice. The other reason can be connected to the spear of St. Maurice. This spear was an important relic, since it had one nail form the cross of Christ in it. The first king of Hungary, Stephen, got this spear when he was crowned as a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor. King Stephen must have known the story of Saint Maurice, and he could also be the person to recommend him as a patron saint.

From the end of the 11th century, the monastery started flourishing. It got remarkable properties to manage, and the right to use its seal to sign official documents. The number of monks started growing, although we must not that during the history of the monastery it never went above 10-12.

The end of the Middle Ages brought crisis to the St. Maurice Monastery: it lost its right to use its seal because of the number of monks decreased. Abbots followed each other very fast. They did not serve until death as it was usual those days, but were removed from their position. This was a time of inner confusion, which could have been solved by the 16th century with the help of the foundation of the Hungarian Benedictine Congregation. However, this help arrived late.

In the 17th century the country was partially occupied by the Ottoman Empire. The buildings of the Monastery were destroyed or collapsed later. The properties were taken over by nature: travelers through the valley could only find forest, swamp and some ruins. We do not exactly know were the ruins were, since there has been no archeological search conducted in the area yet.

On the turn of the 17th and 18th century monks came back to restart work in the valley. This is the time when we can speak about the birth of the village as well. The economy of the monastery was reorganized, and the church was soon rebuilt. The baroque church building that we can see even today is the result of the rebuilding process. Although the monastery could not avoid the storms of Hungarian history (for example the order of Joseph II. Holy Roman Emperor, in which he suppressed monasteries and reduced the number of monks), the following centuries brought prosperity to Bakonybél. The most famous abbot of the age was Izidor Guzmics. He spent less than a decade in St. Maurice Monastery, still he founded the historic botanic garden of the monastery for recreational and scientific purposes. In these years future teachers could also study in the Collage of the monastery.

The last time in Hungarian History, when monks had to leave Bakonybél, was in 1950. The Communist state took the buildings, and the internment of nuns from Budapest to Bakonybél began. Unfortunately, during the decades of communism, both the buildings and the park suffered neglect and damage.

In 1998, few monks for the Arch abbey of Pannonhalma decided reestablish the Benedictine life in the valley. They have started to renovate the monastery building, which project was finished in 2012. Today, 5 monks live here. Another big project was to renovate the garden and park, which they could do with the financial support of the European Union. Now both the 1,5 acre herbal garden, and the 4 acre historic garden are open for visitors, telling the story of the Benedictine order, the monastery, and the park.