Zirc downtown hosts a monumental abbey with a renowned library, a baroque altar and a pleasant arboretum. The medieval building is home to a monastic community and serves as the center of local religious community life.
The predecessor of the monastery was founded at the end of 12th century by King Béla III with monks from the largest Cistercian Abbey in France (Clairvaux Abbey). The towerless Gothic church and cloister was devastated by Turkish troops and monks abandoned the monastery.
In the early-18th century German immigrants inhabited Zirc again and in 1732 monks arrived from Heinrichau (Silesia, Poland, formerly Germany), who built a new abbey church. It was dedicated 20 years later, in 1752. The Abbey of Zirc has been independent since 1814 and it is the center of Cistercian Order in Hungary. The monastery was dissolved in 1950 by the communist government and monks were expelled. The political changes in 1990 brought forth the re-establishment of the monastery and monks returned.
The Abbey is a tourist attraction, the home of Cistercian monks as well as the parish church of the town at the same time. The church has two pipe organs. There is a German romantic organ in the gallery for liturgies and another in the shrine for monastic use. The main altar is the largest Baroque altar in the country. The current church was built from 1738 to 1753. The towers were completed a year later but they were remodeled several times. The altarpieces were painted by Franz Anton Maulbertsch, who was one of the most renowned ecclesiastical artists in the mid-18th century. The minor building of the monastery was completed in 1732, the larger one only in 1841.
The historic library has a collection of 65,000 books including the first ones donated by monks from Heinrichau re-establishing the monastery. There are guided tours in the library, which include visiting the grand hall with invaluable intarsia furniture.
Next to the Abbey there is an arboretum to explore with an area of 18 hectares. It has had a protected status since 1951.
The former orangery hosts an interactive exhibition on ecclesiastical history.
In 2005, the church interior was restored to its original shape.