Pannonhalma Monastery,

Inspired by the original candle-lit ambience of the building, we designed soft, warm localised lighting from low-level light fittings to provide the bulk of the task lighting.
The Archabbot and Community of the Benedictine Abbey of Pannonhalma, Hungary
John Pawson Architects
James Newton
Project Team
Mark Major, Philip Rose

Following centuries of religious and political upheavals and consequent architectural intervention, in 2013 the 13th Century Benedictine Basilica of Pannonhalma Monastry underwent a full restoration.

We designed a simple and sensitive scheme in which layers of lighting at different levels can be individually controlled to tune the ambience. 

The most important aspect of the lighting was to create the right ambience to support the rigorous focus of contemplative life, and to provide the flexibility to be able to adapt this to meets the needs of a particular liturgy.”

The quality of light is deliberately restrained, supporting the subtle interplay of light and shade that progressively reveals the form, mass, volume and detail of the architecture.

Items of a particular significance are highlighted, with great effort taken to conceal the light source, preserving visual clarity.

Together with Pawson, we created a family of light fittings specifically designed for this purpose, taking the form of a specially cast glass-shaded candle, but with warm white LED as the source.

This approach brings attention down to the stalls for the liturgies that require it, and introduces human scale while highlighting the warmth of adjacent stonework.