Excursions around Győr
The Benedictine Archabbey of Pannonhalma is one of the oldest historical monuments in Hungary, on top of St Martin Hill (282m), next to the town of Pannonhalma. The patron saint of the abbey, Saint Martin of Tours, is believed to have been born at the foot of this hill.
The abbey was founded in 996 by Prince Géza, who designated it as a place for the monks to settle, and it soon became the centre of the Benedictine Order. Géza's son, King Stephen I, completed the construction and donated estates and privilege to the monastery. Astrik (Anastasius) served as its first abbot. The first buildings of the community were destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in 1137. The Basilica's pillars and early Gothic vault were built in the early 13th century by Abbot Urias, using the walls of the former church. In 1486, the church was reconstructed under King Matthias in the Gothic style and supplemented with a cloister.
The monastery became an archabbey in 1541, but was turned into a fortress as a result of Ottoman incursions into Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries. During the century and a half of the Turkish occupation, the monks had to abandon the abbey for shorter or longer periods of time. Only later were they able to work on the reconstruction of the damaged buildings.
In the 17-18th centuries, rich Baroque adornments and extensions were added to the complex, and much of its current facade dates from that time. The beautiful Baroque refectory was a result of this reconstruction. The monastery received its present form in 1832, with the library and the tower built in classicistic style. The era of the Enlightenment in the 18th century also influenced the life of the monasteries. The state and the monarchs judged the operation of religious orders according to their immediate utility, by and large tolerating only those orders which practised nursing and education. In the 1860s, Ferenc Storno organised major renovations, mainly in the basilica.
In 1995, one year before the monastery's millennium, the complex was entirely reconstructed and renovated. In 1996, "the Millenary Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma and its Natural Environment" was officially recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The earliest parts of the Basilica are the nave and the crypt, both dating from the 13th century. The entrance to the cloister opens through the remarkable 13th century Porta speciosa. The monumental library with its 360,000 volumes, including medieval manuscripts and several incunabula, is a must-see.
Today, there are around 50 monks living in the monastery. The Benedictine Secondary School, a boys' boarding school, operates within the abbey.
The Rule of Saint Benedict dictates that it is preferable for the monks to earn their living from their own labour. This is why monasteries have traditionally placed an emphasis on work in addition to prayer. In the early times, labour meant primarily agriculture and handicraft. From 1950, the Hungarian Benedictines were restricted to secondary education as the only possibility of work. Since the end of the communist regime in Hungary, the archabbey and the monks have had the chance to rediscover new areas of work as well, in accordance with the Benedictine tradition. Among items produced by the monks, you will find liqueurs, wine, herbal tea, chocolate, lavender, soap and music, all of which can be purchased in the shops of the monastery.
The Archabbey offers guided tours for visitors, starting from the reception building next to the car park. Guests can gain insight into the life of the Benedictine monastic community by viewing a short film.
For further information on the guided tours and other programmes in the Abbey, please contact the staff at the TriCollis Guided Tour Office of Pannonhalma Archabbey.
Between the main channel and the Moson branch of the Danube lies the Szigetköz, a watery flatland with scattered villages noted for fishing and wildfowl. Szigetköz is the largest island in Hungary, and is actually moorland, partly drained and recovered through canals. It is called the “Gift of the Danube” for good reason, as it was formed by alluvial deposits from the river. A wide array of flora and fauna awaits lovers of nature. The area is rich in game, thus promising hunters a good chance of bagging roe deer, red deer and wild boar.
Split into many branches, the Danube has developed a multitude of islands in the upper third of the Szigetköz. Settlements were established on the larger islands, bordered by marvellous floodplain forests and branches of the Danube.
Water touring enthusiasts are welcome to cruise along the branches of the Danube, which are aligned with gallery forests and diverse landscapes, promising an unforgettable experience for those arriving by kayak or canoe. In addition to these waterways, the numerous quarry lakes make the Szigetköz a true fishing paradise. Jaunting car rides are also very popular, as well as riding excursions to the island organized by riding schools in the area. At Dunakiliti, a 9-hole golf course awaits golf fans. The road passing through Szigetköz is also a part of the international cycle route running along the Danube, although the dikes and low-traffic side roads are also suitable for cycling. Bike and canoe rental facilities are available in several villages in the region. It is also worth checking out the seasonal programmes, which range from tasting sessions to fishing contests.
The settlements of Szigetköz abound with interesting sights.
Due to the proximity of the Danube, the village of Ásványráró has frequently fallen victim to floods. Thus, often isolated from the outside world, people in the village engaged in ancient and long-forgotten professions typical of the Szigetköz area, such as gold washing. A Calvary erected in the Baroque style by Count Lázár Apponyi in 1738 can be found just outside the settlement. Next to the Calvary stands an ancient black poplar, the age of which is estimated to be 100 years. Ásványráró is also known for its Catholic church, which boasts a 14th century baptistery. The village is an angling paradise.
The Ráró-Vadaskert woods and the lower backwaters of the Bokrosi Stream lie between the villages of Ásványráró and Hédervár. This is a place where rare indigenous species can still be found, uncommon in the woods of the surrounding hills. The once wide arms of the Danube that have now shrunk to streams host rich bird species.
Hédervár was once the property of the Héderváry family. The gem of the village is their palace with three corner towers and a beautiful English garden. The palace now hosts a hotel. Built in the 15th century, the Chapel of Our Lady served as the burial place of the Héderváry family. During the 17th century, a Loreto Chapel was added to the chapel. At 14m high and 1.7m in diameter, the English oak tree standing in its courtyard is believed by legend to be the tree of Prince Árpád (1100 years old!), yet scientist estimate its age at "only" 700 years old.
The main tourist attraction of Lipót is the spa and aqua park supplied by a thermal spring, with a water temperature of 64ºC and brought to the surface from a depth of 2,200 meters. In the vicinity of the spa, there is a riverside camping area in a beautiful setting. The line of horse chestnut trees along the road to Darnózseli is a protected nature site.
Featuring frescoes painted by disciples of Maulbertsch, a large baroque church rises above two gabled baroque peasant houses in the centre of Halászi. The amusement park and beach on the bank of Moson-Danube offers great opportunities for unwinding and boat riding.
Vámosszabadi is a fishing paradise, as there is a splendid fishing lake in the middle of the village; a perfect place for recreation. North of the village, close to the Big-Danube lies Vörösrét, a marshland where several protected plant species can be found, such as the Siberian iris, the broadleaf helleborine, a type of terrestrial orchid, plus the marsh gentian or the summer snowflake. Plenty of birds appear on the meadows, like the black stork and the grey heron, but the western marsh harrier, the European buzzard and the white stork also nest here. Another fishing paradise can be found at Vidra Csárda, where in an area of 10 hectares there are two fishing lakes in the marshlands dotted with groups of trees.
The village of Gönyű is a popular stop for boat excursions and canoe trips.
Premonstratensian Provost, St. James Church between Árpás and Mórichida
This unique 13th century church was built in the Romanesque style with a single nave, a straight apse and two towers oriented to the West. Today it operates as a parish church.
Lébény – Szent James Benedictine Abbey - Church
An excursion to Lébény may be dovetailed with a cycling tour to the Tóköz region, which lies northeast of Rábaköz and south of Hanság between the rivers Rába and Rábca. This is an intact industry-free area which – in addition to the peasants’ houses from older times – has preserved its peace and tranquillity.
We recommend the following itinerary: Rábcakapi, Cakóháza, Markotabödöge, Fehértó, Győrsövényház and Tárnokréti.
The Benedictine abbey-church of Lébény, built at the beginning of the 13th century, is one of the most outstanding and intact monuments of Hungarian ecclesiastical architecture from the Middle Ages.
From an artistic point of view, the elements of plastic art wall decorations are of exceptional value. The Abbey-Church of Lébény was founded between 1199 and 1203, in honour of Saint James the Apostle. The founders were bailiffs, descendents of the Győr clan who owned huge estates in the region. The clan continued sponsoring the abbey with considerable donations even after its foundation.
The church is a splendid representation of Romanesque architecture. It has three naves with semicircular apses, and there are two pyramidal towers on its western façade with a gallery in between. Especially noteworthy are the carved stones decorating the building, such as the peerless carved ornaments on the main entrance and the southern side portal. The abbey survived the Middle Ages without any significant alterations, but burnt down in 1478. The monks returned after the catastrophe, but when flames consumed the monastery for a second time in 1563, it was abandoned for good.
The uninhabited buildings were given to the Jesuits of Győr, and in 1638 they built the new vaulted parts of the church. The original medieval vaulting remained undamaged only in very few places, such as in the lower part of the towers. The interior was transformed into the Baroque style during the 18th century. The buildings of the abbey disappeared by the 19th century, but the church continued to function as a parish church for the nearby village.
In the second half of the 19th century, the Office of Historical Monument Protection acknowledged the special architectural importance of the church. Several restorations have taken place since then, and considerable research by art historians has focused on the building.
The inhabitants of Lébény are also proud of their local beer, Pelikán.
It is worth continuing your cycling tour in the direction of Tárnokréti, through the Fertő-Hanság Natural Park, which boasts rich bird species (Lake Fehér and Lake Babarcsi).
Győrújbarát and Nyúl – hiking and wine-routes
Győrújbarát is a village south of Győr in the Sokoró Hills. It is a perfect place for excursions and wine tasting. The Babarczy Vineyard and Cellars, as well as the procession and festivities of Vintage Days, are a must.
The main stops for a hiking trip to Győrújbarát are Lila Hill (300 m), Francia-kő (French stone - 234m), Rákóczy Tree (183m) and Várkő (278m). In addition to the beauty of the countryside, one of the most significant European Bee-eater colonies in Transdanubia can be found here.
Lovasbarát Inn (Lovasbarát Fogadó), located in the village, organises regular horse riding and horse camps.
The village of Nyúl is known for its wines and wine route. Sárkánylik (The Hole of the Dragon) Cellar is an ideal place to start your tour. Most of the cellars organise wine tasting sessions with prior appointment. The typical wines of the region are white wines, among them Welschriesling, Ezerjó, Leányka, Johannisberg Riesling, Müller-Thurgau and Tramini being the most important ones. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris (Grey Monk) and Sauvignon are also becoming popular.
Nature trails by bike and on foot
Püspökerdő (Bishop’s Woods), in the outskirts of Győr (Győr-Pinnyéd), has become a popular place with the inhabitants of Győr after a recent upgrade for its promenades. In addition to the well-kept clearings and campfire sites, a 9 km-long hiking trail and a forest exercise ground await visitors. To delight children, a playground is located in the park. There is also a nature trail in the Bishop’s Woods, where flora and fauna are detailed in their natural environment on informational boards.
The Ravazd - Sokorópátka Nature Trail (12 km) can be either walked or visited on bike. The trail starts at the exit of “Likas-horog”, where visitors can read general information on the Pannonhalma Landscape Conservation Area. The road then leads to the entrance of the Ravazd Forest, where we are informed about the indigenous species of the hilly area, and the role and protection of the woods. Further on at the Hármastarján junction, more information is given about the communities living in the area, with an emphasis on botanical and zoological treasures. From this station onwards, bikers can ride on a paved route towards Sokorópátka. At the next station, they can learn about the formation, as well as the geological, cultural-historical and environmental treasures of the Pannonhalma Hills. Hikers can proceed on Rókavölgyi Road. The two paths meet again at the forestry house at Vadalmás, where additional information can be obtained about gathering medicinal herbs, mushrooms, as well as crops and the protected treasures in the clearings.
Within the Pannonhalma Landscape Conservation Area, a nature trail along the backwaters of the River Rába (Győr-Gyirmót) can be covered on foot, and partly also by bike. The trail starts at Sörfőző (Csikós) meadow in Gyirmót. Visitors can find a few benches and a campfire site here, as well as general information on the Landscape Conservation Area. The path will take you across the meadow to the next information board, where you will learn about migratory birds and the protection of nature in the region. Following the trail, visitors arrive at the Gyirmót Bridge. An overall picture can be obtained here about the fauna in the waters and especially nesting birds. Following the pattern of the backwaters, the nature trail takes you back to the dam on the River Rába, where the botanical treasures of the area are introduced. The hiking trail here meets the bike route, then continues - parallel to the dam - to the last station, where you can get information on the formation of backwaters, as well as on the vegetation in the flood area.
The Vár-kő nature trail maintained by the Sokoró Ecological Park Foundation is also worth a visit. Along the 4km-long path, experts from the foundation introduce the flora and fauna of the Pannonhalma-Sokoró region, together with the past and the present of the district. In the course of the visit, organic products (jam, juice and herbal tea) produced by the foundation can also be tasted.
The Pannonhalma nature trail (2 km) starts at the Boldog-Mór lookout tower, with a board containing information on the Pannonhalma Landscape Conservation Area. It then it leads to the protected woods beneath the lookout tower. At the next station, visitors can learn about the main forest types and the botanical treasures of the Pannonhalma Hills. Finally, the nature trail introduces the main protected zoological treasures of the area.
The Roman Catholic church in the village of Rábaszentmiklós was built in the second part of the 13th century. The trefoil Romanesque-style church with a single tower is actually a unique architectural example. The three foils with a nearly identical base area form the symbol of the Holy Trinity.
In the centre of the village stands the Cross of Győr, a column erected to commemorate the reconquest of Győr from the Turkish army (1598).
Saint’s days are in Csorna, Osli, Tétszentkút, Szany and Máriakálnok.
The Csorna Premonstratensian provost was founded by the Count Osl family around 1180. The church is of medieval origin, but the architect Haubt Moravian changed it to its present Baroque shape between 1774 and 1786. The provost was in secular hands from the beginning of the Reformation until 1694, when the Premonstrants returned. The icon of Black Mary, which most likely is a version of the icon in Częstochowa, Poland, was taken to Csorna from Hradisch in Bohemia around 1757. A number of miraculous recoveries occurred in front of the picture, and consequently the place became a pilgrimage site.
The church festival is on the last day in May.
The first church in Osli was built by Archbishop János Kanizsai Esztergom in the honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. A great honour surrounded the miracle-working picture of the Blessed Virgin, but the Protestant Nádasdy family destroyed the church and the icon. The Esterházys later rebuilt the church. In 1690, Palatine Pál Esterházy brought the lime-carved statue of the Virgin Mary from Kismarton. Numerous miracle cures happened in front of the statue, which are also testified by the votive presents there. The statue is also called the Guardian Lady of Rábaköz by locals.
The main church festival is held on the first Sunday after the Feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary (8 September).
According to the legend of Tétszentkút, an imperial soldier, Ailert Keresztély, had a dream in 1715 in which he recovered from illness at a spring in the Tét forest. As this actually later happened, he built a small chapel beside the spring and placed a copy of the picture of the Helping Blessed Virgin inside it. The news of the miraculous cure made it a pilgrimage site. The Szentkút Church was built between 1715 and 1744 in the location of the chapel. The picture of the crowned patron saint, Saint Anthony of Padua, was placed on the Rococo high altar, above the icon of the Helping Blessed Virgin.
The church festival is on 12 September, the Feast of Virgin Mary.
The chapel of Szany was built in 1753, and was extended and equipped with stained glass windows in 1901. A wild pear tree once stood where the tiny water well is now, which, according to legend, blossomed in January, amidst snow and frost-covered trees. The wild pear tree would be Saint Ann, and its blossoms the Blessed Virgin. At the request of the faithful, the bishop at the time authorised the construction of a chapel at this miraculous place. He then offered a picture painted in brass as a present, depicting Saint Ann, Saint Joachim and the young Blessed Virgin. Since then, the picture has been honoured in the chapel. The faithful from Szany carried all of the construction material to the forest by hand while praying and singing. The chapel has been a dominant spiritual centre of Rábaköz ever since.
The church festival is on the weekend following Saint Ann’s day (26 July).
The ancient inhabitants of the village of Máriakálnok were Germans. The start of a pilgrimage to Máriakálnok goes back to the 16th century. The wanderers often visited the water well outside the village, which was believed to have curative powers. According to legend, a fisherman from Máriakálnok caught a lime-carved statue of Mary in the Danube and built a chapel in its honour near the well. The old chapel was replaced by a new one to honour a visit by landlord János Viczay in 1663. Only the statue remained unharmed from a devastating fire in 1873; Bishop János Zalka of Győr rebuilt the chapel. The statues were then given crowns and a silver sceptre was placed in Mary’s hand.
The major church festivals are: Holy Trinity Sunday, and the Sunday after the Feast of the Birth of the Virgin Mary (8th September).