History of the monastery

The beginnings of the Benedictine order date back to the 6th century. At that time, Saint Benedict of Nursia lived in Italy and in 529, he started a monastery on Monte Cassino south of Rome and wrote rules for the monks to live by, called the Rule of Saint Benedict. During the 7th century, Saint Benedict’s teachings spread throughout all of Western and a part of Eastern Europe.

The Benedictines came to today’s Czech Republic first as a female branch of the order in 973 when Mlada Přemyslid founded the Convent of St. George in Prague. The first male monastery was built in Prague-Břevnov 20 years later.

The Rajhrad Monastery was started about the mid-11th century. It was founded by Prince Břetislav I of Bohemia. Rajhrad may have not been started as a monastery, but rather as a college chapter headed by a provost. When founding the monastery, Břetislav was thinking about restoring the Great Moravian Bishopric of St. Methodius, which happened later in Olomouc.

The fact is that Rajhrad was – whether as a monastery or another church institution – populated with monks from the Benedictine Monastery in Břevnov. They were supposed to carry out religious administration because there were not enough priests. When the Olomouc Bishopric was renewed in 1063, Rajhrad lost its position as the only religious institution in Moravia, while the Břevnov Monastery’s influence increased. It became a subsidiary of the Břevnov Monastery in the second half of the 13th century.

This lasted until the beginning of the 19th century. In 1812, Rajhrad Provost Řehoř Sázavský, together with the entire convent, turned to Emperor Francis I and requested that the monastery be promoted to an independent abbacy. This request was also supported by Brno Bishop Schrattenbach and the Moravian proconsul Lažanský. The Emperor agreed and on 22 March 1813, the monastery was promoted to an abbacy independent of the Břevnov Monastery. The first abbot was Augustin Koch.

In the 19th century, the monastery continued to develop, research was conducted, studies in history and other fields were written and the library, archives and museum collections were expanded. A monastic publishing house and a printing office in Brno were also founded.

Towards the end of the century, the monastery was affected by economic difficulties that were partially resolved by selling some of the library collections. New problems started after the first land reform in 1918.

In 1950, the monastery was abolished, the monks were expelled and the buildings, with the exception of some parts of the quadrature and the church, were given to the Czechoslovak Army for its use. A crop warehouse was located in some of the agricultural buildings. 

The Benedictines returned to Rajhrad in the 1990s. In 1993, the historic library was returned to them. However, books could not be returned until the renovations in 2004. Since the 1990s, the Rajhrad Monastery buildings have been undergoing repairs. Since 2005, the Museum of Literature in Moravia (part of the Brno Regional Museum) has had its seat on the monastery’s grounds. This institution not only administers the historic library, but also holds numerous literary and other exhibitions and social events.