Medieval Hungary – the romanesque church of Lébény

The Benedictine Abbey of Lébény was officially founded between 1199 and 1208, in honour of Saint Jacob the Apostle (just like the chatedral of Compostela de Santiago in Spain, or the chatedral of Lőcse). Their founders, the lanlords Csépán and Pót, were bailiffs, descendents of the dynasty of Győr. The church was built as a „tribal”, „family” or „stem” church – still during its reign (11st century) St. Stephen ordered to built temples by all ten settlements, and as the villages and grounds belonged to one-one conquesting tribes, called as stems, naturally the related landlords financed all constructions. The church of Lébény was promoted as the “prototype” for family churches in Western Hungary, like the church of Ják. The charter of the abbey-church and the monastery was issued by Andrew II in 1208, but by that time there must have been already a temple, as in one of the outside wall’s stones the date „1206” carved in was founded by the archeologists.

In Hungary the Benedictine Order’s life went on with varied intensity during the middle ages, but the abbey-church of Lébény became one of the most important centre, and the church today is between the most intact and outstanding monuments of the Hungarian ecclesiastical architecture. From artistic point of view, the elements of plastic art decorating its walls are of exceptional value. The church was built in a Lombardian romanesque style, with a nave and two side aisles with the interruption of a transept (classic art of chatedral’s building in the medieval times). The nave and the two aisles end with an apsis of round arches. At the western side, on the sides of the main entrance – in harmony of basilica1s building rules - two massive bell towers were erected. The lordship gallery is situated between the two towers. Beside the Lombardian effect, several parts of the church – such as the ornated entrance (the main portal) the rose-window, and the southern side portal - show impressive Norman and Cistercian characteristics as well. The decorative southern portal was reserved for the monks of the attached abbey.

The church survived the Mongolian storm, but later, in 1529 was burned by Turkish troops , as they were marching towards to siege Vienna. The western part, the nave itself, the two aisles and the massive towers of the church were severely damaged, but survived, while the monastery was totally demolished. The vault of the church’s nave was repaired when Jesuits of Győr took over Lébény in 1631. Turkish army - on their way to another failed siege of Vienna - burned the church again in 1683, and the building was again fixed up by the Jesuits, who built the baroque arches during the restoration.

The church of Lébény went under a major renovation during the 1870’s, when the northern tower and the Rhenish pyramidal tower roof were added. The western and southern portals still show the original plant ornaments and the angel relief. Inside at the western part the original ripped vault below the lordship gallery, and in the nave the columns with the burgeon capital outlasted the time. The restoration was finished in 1879, and the church was the first monument in Hungary, which was safeguarded by the newly founded National Monument Committee.

See your guide: Ildikó V.

See tour: Trip to Vienna

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