The Benedictine Abbey of Tihany is a renowned landmark of Tihany peninsula and the whole region. It was founded by King Andrew I in 1055 and dedicated to Saint Mary and Saint Aignan. The charter of the monastery held in the archives of Pannonhalma Archabbey and predominantly written in Latin is the first known lingusitic record partly in Hungarian ("military road leading to Fehérvár").
The abbey had the right to issue legal documents as a loca credibilia (place of authentication) from the 13th century. When founder King Andrew I died in 1060, he was buried in the crypt, as he requested, and his grave still stands there today. The crypt has been remodelled and renovated more times. In the 18th century its walls were decorated with murals, which were replaced with others in 1889 under the supervison of renowned painter Károly Lotz. In 1955 the murals were removed and the original surface was restored. King Andrew's tombstone decorated with a simple cross is in the center of the crypt.
The eastward oriented church was accompanied by a monastery on the southern side, however, the medieval buldings have all been devastated except the crypt and a few carved stones. The abbey could survive the Mongol Raid in the 13th century but the Turkish invasion greatly affected its future as a fort was constructed around the monastery. Monks left in 1534 and the fortified buildings gained an important role in the Hungarian defense system. In the next 150 years Turkish troops kept trying to occupy the abbey but with no success. Nevertheless, monastic activity had disappered from Tihany.
The abbey regained its original function only in 1674, but 9 years later it was devastated in a fire. At the turn of the century the Habsburgs decided to demolish several forts in Hungary. When the fort in Tihany was blown up in 1702 the church also got seriously damaged. Rebuilding the church and the monastery began in 1719 by plans of Carmelite architect Márton Wittwer. Construction works finished in 1735 but next year the abbey was destroyed in a fire again. Building a new church and monastery started in 1740 by Abbot Ágoston Lécs and finished in 1754 and gained their current form. By today the church with the 35-meter high twin spires has become the visual symbol of Tihany.
All gilded wooden sculptures and furniture were made by wood sculptor and cabinet maker Sebestyén Stulhoff between 1754 and 1779.
When Joseph II disbanded monastic orders in 1786 monks had to leave the monastery except one to perform parish duties. They could return only in 1802.
The church was renovated in 1889, when ceiling murals were painted by Lajos Deák-Ébner, Károly Lotz and Bertalan Székely. The order was disbanded in 1950 again and the monastery was used as a retirement home and later as a museum. The 18th century furniture of the library was sold when the order was disbanded in 1786 while the books got lost during the disbanding in 1950.
Benedictine monks returned to Tihany in 1990 and regained the monastery from the state in 1994. Between 1992 and 1996 the altar and the murals of the church were restored. The overall renovation of the monastery began in 1996. In Spring, 2012 the abbey gained an independent priory status with 9 friars. They performed parish duties as well as organised spiritual retreats and cultural programmes in nearby settlements. The abbey has hosted exhibitions, concerts and some other events over the recent years. The two spires of the church have 3 bells altogether. The northwestern spire has a bell of 1670 kg, which is the biggest in Balatonfüred district. The bells in the southeastern spire weigh 431 and 227 kg (the latter one automated but rarely used).
The museum of the abbey is hosted in the monastery. The Habsburg Charles IV Memorial Room commemorates the last Hungarian king, who spent 5 days in captivity together with Queen Zita in 1921 before their exile began in Madeira. The museum is accessible through the church. Besides temporary exhibitions it is home to a permanent exhibition on life in and around the abbey from 1055 until today. The former wine cellars and press house of the abbey are located north of Belső-tó (Inner Lake). Close to the abbey, in Csokonai liget a visitor centre was built in 2011 (Porta Pacis = Gate of Peace). Most of the building is hidden underground carved in a hillside and only a clean line concrete building is visible. The underground part includes a film screeing room (also used as a conference room), an information desk and gift shop where you can buy tickets to the abbey museum. In 2015, the building won the Award of Excellence in "Public Buildings" category.
Next to the stairs leading to the abbey a sculpture entitled "The Founder" by Imre Varga was erected depicting King Andrew I.