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Knowledge of centuries in one place: the historic library of the Cistercian Abbey in Zirc

Library of the Cistercian Abbey ZircBalaton

Works have been collected at the library of the Cistercian Abbey in Zirc, Hungary, since the 1700s. Today, this extraordinary collection includes 65,000 volumes, including ancient prints of exceptional value, extraordinary books and rare periodicals. You’ll find mainly theological-themed writings, but many other disciplines are also represented in this sublime place, home to one of the most significant ecclesiastical collections in the country, with a long history.

If you visit the Cistercian Abbey in the north-western Hungarian town of Zirc, the sublime yet pristine feeling that the environment exudes will overwhelm you in a moment. Walking through the main entrance, up the red marble stairs, in the monument library you can see the captivating collection of 65,000 volumes, including 70 ancient prints from the 15th century and close to 400 antiques. The 1488 Augsburg edition of the rare Thuróczy Chronicle, the Schedel Chronicle, published in Nuremberg in 1493, the Hungarian edition of István Werbőczy's Tripartitum from 1571, hand-coloured plant illustrations in the 19th-century Flora Universalis volumes, an inlaid table renowned throughout Europe as a masterpiece of applied arts,
the two beautiful globes, considered to be among the oldest in Hungary.

Corner of a famous library

The history of the lavish monument library in a nutshell

The library is the collection of the distinguished Roman Catholic order of monks, the Cistercians. King Béla III granted an estate and a settlement permit to the monks arriving from Clairvaux in 1182. The abbey therefore began to flourish at that time, but unfortunately the monastery, together with the library, perished during the Turkish expansion. Thereafter, the abbey was re-established only in the first half of the 1700s by Silesian monks, who erected a magnificent Baroque building – with a library room inside. The first manuscript volume catalogue was prepared in 1815, at which time 2,135 works were listed in 4,157 volumes. The library stock began to grow at a rapid pace in the 19th century, thanks to the monks embarking on scientific work and also taking up teaching. A few decades later, no fewer than 65,000 volumes, books, and journals enriched the knowledge of the monks and intellectuals in the area.

The library of the Cistercian Abbey today

Although the National Széchenyi Library took over the supervision of the library in 1953, Cistercian monks live within the walls of the abbey to this day. Today, the monument library fulfils a dual function: it serves as a museum with the help of a professional guide (with guided tours only), and also as a specialist library, with its valuable stock of books.

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