It was a common practice in the Middle Ages that rulers built churches, monasteries, primarily for their own spiritual salvations, and secondly, to rest in the crypts of these buildings after their death. Upon the order of King Andrew I. a church and abbey was built in 1055 on the Tihany Peninsula, “over the Balatin, at the place called Tichon” in honour of the Virgin Mary and Bishop St. Aignan of Orleans.
The founding charter of the monastery, issued in 1055, is the first written scattered record of the Hungarian language, starting with the words “Holy Trinity One God.” The peninsula that once had been an island gave home also to two monastic communities.
Having been defeated in a strife for the throne of Hungary, King Andrew I tried to escape, but was captured, and shortly afterwards he passed away in the Royal Cottage in the town of Zirc. He was laid to rest in the royal crypt in Tihany in 1060, and later his son, Prince David was also buried here.
Originally a total of seven Romanesque style slit-windows were cut into the eastern and southern walls of the crypt, but during the construction of the Baroque monastery, the southern windows had been bricked over, leaving only the three east facing ones. Each morning the sun still shines through them, symbolising the Redeeming Christ as the rising sun, an emblematic meaning of Christian symbolism.
The church has been rebuilt several times over the centuries, restoration works were carried out repeatedly to embellish the crypt. During the archaeological excavations that were completed in the 19th century, human remains were discovered, presumably belonging to the late King Andrew I. Further archaeological excavations and restorations took place in the crypt in 1953, led by the National Monument Supervision and the Hungarian National Museum, and the bones found in the crypt were placed into a tomb lined with marble tiles.
The crypt itself was hardly damaged, presumably due to the high respect that surrounded King Andrew I. By today this is the only royal burial place of Hungary, which has remained almost intact and in a condition of its original state. It is a remarkable memorial place, a pilgrimage site, bearing the unique spirit of the Hungarians, which is definitely worth a visit at least once a year. One of the further peculiarities the place has is that not only our first kings, but the last Hungarian crowned king, Charles IV of Hungary also spent a few days here in praying, right before he was sent to exile.
Photo and source: tihanyiapatsag.hu