The only intact Cistercian monastery of the country from medieval times hides on the outskirts of Bélapátfalva in the western gate to Bükk Mountains. The building is a cultural heritage featuring three distinct styles of architecture in a majestic natural environment.
Named after Saint Mary of the Assumption but better known as the Monastery of Bélháromkúti or Bélapátfalva was founded by Bishop of Eger Kilit II in 1232 near Háromkúti Spring. The construction of the towerless three-naved basilica and monastery was begun by Cistercian monks from Pilis in early Romanesque style. Unfortunately, construction works were interrupted by the Mongol Invasion and this delay left a mark on the architectural style as later works were influenced by early Gothic style. Records say that by 1246 the buildings had already been finished and inhabited by monks. In 1495, the management of the abbey passed to Archbishop of Eger Tamás Bakócz. The monastic community started to shrink and by 1596, when Eger was captured by the Turkish, both the monastery and the village were abandoned.
The decaying buildings were restored in the 1730s and 40s with the support of the bishop of Eger. Construction works added Baroque style elements to the building, such as the sacristy annex on the east side. Next time it was in the mid-20th century when renovation was needed. Restoration began in 1934 and after a hiatus due to WW2 it continued only in 1953. External works began in 1964, when the foundations of the former monastery were excavated. The finds included elements of an 800-year-old water pipe system, too.
The current exterior is the result of restoration in the 18th century. Medieval parts, unfortunately, had been demolished. The exterior includes Saint Emeritus Altar in Baroque style, the oldest church organ of the country and the Louis XVI style pulpit decorated with Biblical reliefs. The main decorative element of the western facade is a rose window.
The abbey is not only a medieval monument but a living religious site also. Besides major religious feasts it is a venue for biweekly holy masses and various cultural programs, such as organ concerts, guided tours by night, treasure hunts and torch marches.
The ticket office in a separate building near the church hosts an exhibition on the history of the monastery.
A nature trail guides you from the parking lot of the abbey to the monumental rock mass of Bél-kő with a mine pit on the top. The trail ends at a lookout tower sitting at 815 meters on the peak offering a splendid view over the village and its surroundings (Total distance back and forth: 10 km).