Jedna priča o trapističkom samostanu Marija Zvijezda, proizvodnji sira i piva.

Malo smo pričali o siru Trapistu
6. Studeni 2021.
Prilog RTV Herceg-Bosne
21. Studeni 2021.

Trappist Beer and Cheese

Franz Pfanner

It’s a very sunny Thursday morning. We’re just outside Banja Luka. Actually, if you check it on the map, you’ll see that we are near the river. There’s a bridge next to us. And well, if you’re on Google, you will know now that on Google maps, there is a brewery. It’s the Banja Luka brewery. It’s called Nektar. They actually say on their beer bottles and on their advertising, that it says 1873. But I actually think the Nektar company may not have been as well known then as it is now.

Trappisti - Banja Luka

Today, we’re going to find out a little bit about beer and cheese from Banja Luka. Most people aren’t familiar with those two things. They might be familiar with the Dajak. They might be familiar with the big Mosque here, and they might be familiar with the earthquake of 1969. But they’re definitely not, I don’t think, too aware of the beer and cheese story.

There are subtitles in English on this video. Click CC on the video to get the English subtitles.

Thanks to Viktoria Pejčinović for our translation support 👍 😀

And that’s what we’re going to find out about today. So, first of all, I’m joined by, I believe he’s a director of the organisation that deals with both the cheese and the beer, and we’re going to find out, I think, much, much more. So my first question is, today, who are you please?

My name is Draženko Budimir. I am the official director of the Livač agricultural cooperative, which produces Trappist cheese and Trappist beer. Together with my associates, I work within  Caritas of the Diocese of Banja Luka, where my bishop and I have resumed the production of cheese and beer.

The story of beer and cheese started a long time ago. What was the start for producing beer and cheese here in Banja Luka?

The beginnings of beer and cheese production go far back in time. They are related to the arrival of the Trappists in Banja Luka,  the arrival of Franz Pfanner, who arrived in Banja Luka back in 1869, which was 152 years ago. When they came they started a revolution not only in the production of cheese and beer which has persisted today but also in other things like in culture, education and certain architectural endeavours that they worked in. This was of great significance for the area.

When that founding Abbot came here to Banja Luka, he had nothing, from what you know, was it an easy task for him to build this monastery and to create the environment that he wished to?

When we look at it from this context we can see that Franz Pfannerr was an extraordinary person, since he decided to come to this place 150 years ago. His original decision was not to go to Banja Luka but as we like to say by God’s will and his faith he was brought here. His first idea was to found a monastery in Croatia, but he was denied. Then he came up with the idea to establish an orphanage for children. Through communication with a priest from Banja Luka he learned about the very difficult life here and about the abandoned children who do not go to school, so he decided to come to Banja Luka and start building a monastery.

I must mention that at that time Banja Luka was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire, so Franz Pfanner came from Austria to Turkey. He first bought a property near Banja Luka from a Muslim, but when he realised that Franz was a Catholic, he refused to sell it to him, and then Franz came here to Delibašino selo and bought this property from a merchant, Tomo Radulović. The property on which we now stand was at that time only an old wooden hut which the Trappists called the cradle, from which the whole story begins.

Franz then sent a letter to his brothers in Austria in which he wrote that he had built a church and invited them to come here.

When I was reading the information inside the museum here at the monastery, it said that at the start there were maybe 1036 people that came here with lots of skills. From wine growers, and there’s a surgeon, and farmers. We also know that there were at least two villages just outside Banja Luka, Rudolfstall, and Windhorst. Did the people that came with Frans back then, live here in Banja Luka, or were they in these villages outside?

As I have already said, with the arrival of the Trappists the industrial revolution begins. With the arrival of Franz Pfanner and his brothers, 6 more monks came in large horse-drawn carriages, which was a surprise for the locals because they had never seen such carriages before. They brought tillage equipment. They built a brick factory first so that they could build a monastery, and they lived in a wooden barn. They first began to build a convent and a convent church. After that, certain changes took place and Bosnia and Herzegovina became part of Austro-Hungary.

Many monks and brothers came from Western Europe and the German-speaking areas, the inhabitants of these places were slowly settling in Rudolfstadt, where the cheese is made, today’s Aleksandrovac, and also Windhorst which is today’s Nova Topola.

Map showing Čelinovac, Novo Topola and Aleksandrovac

Map showing Čelinovac, Novo Topola and Aleksandrovac

Next to them comes a group of Poles from Poland and there is still that community in Čelinovac where there is a church and also there are Italians from the Trieste region who continue with and start wine production in this area. Other nationalities such as Ukrainians and Croatians also came here. If you come to the museum you can see that there were 24 different nationalities of monks from Europe in the monastery, but most of them were from the German-speaking area.

When I look where we’re standing now, at this really beautiful monastery, it must have taken a few years to build this. When was Frans able to say, well, let’s make cheese, let’s make beer? Because I think the priority would’ve been the building for the brothers.

Franz Pfanner’s original idea was to open an orphanage for children. We are now standing in front of the second church that was built after his death.The first monastery was located in the area of today’s Banja Luka Brewery, and this church began to be built in 1920 because at that time this was the largest abbey in the world. There were about 269 monks and friars who lived here. The Trappist is one of the strictest orders of the Catholic Church. they are guided by the rule of St. Benedict. They originated in France in the seventeenth century in the province of LaTrape and from there they got their name although their official name is “the order of the Cistercians of a stricter rite“.

Since they follow the rule of St. Benedict and their abbreviation by which they are guided is “pray and work” which means that they prayed for peace and salvation of all people in the world and that they worked for everything they had. The prayer was quite strict. They did not ask for donations or help but lived from their work and gave a large part of their income to the poor and the people in need.

The history of the Trappists of Banja Luka

In this area they opened an orphanage. They had 36 occupations (brickyard, leather, printing, mill and many more) so that the children would later have jobs and crafts after they finished school. Children who had completed their education with the Trappists were highly recognised. They had a printing house in which they printed the magazine “putokaz” in which they would write about the experiences of children who, after being educated by the Trappists, had settled in the world and sent them letters. They also printed books that were both religious and ordinary. They also had a public kitchen where many hungry people came for food. Because there was no doctor and no one to serve first aid, people came to them.

In the middle of the 20th century. Wow, yeah, we’re in the 21st century now. In the middle of the 20th century, at the end or near the end of the Second World War, the majority of the families, those immigrant families from Austria, Germany, Poland, left. Did that have an impact on the way that the Trappist community lived at that time?

Windhorst - Novo Topola

Unfortunately, the end of the war had a major impact on these communities. a lot of the population from western Europe withdrew. The communist party came, which had a system and a ban on the work of religious buildings and organisations, which greatly influenced the work of the Trappists as the catholic church, and all its property was confiscated. Over 400 acres of land. Only some tools remain. A large number of the remaining monks were imprisoned, the others were left without means of subsistence so they left. Thanks to some of the monks that stayed, the monastery has remained to this day, with our Banja Luka diocese giving the parish in 1976, which is not typical of Trappists, but they used it to have some kind of income and continued to work for a living.

After the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, how did the community resurrect itself in the 1990s to where we are today to where actually they’re producing, I think more cheese than they ever dreamt of doing at the start of the journey?

Unfortunately the latest events also influenced the community. We currently have only 2 monks in the monastery. They simply survived with the help of the diocese, the local population and then the number of monks decreased, it was forbidden for people to come, of course this life and vocation is not easy so younger people make poor choices for it. Trappists are expected to stay in the same place, to spend their whole life in one monastery for which they must take a vow. They started the cheese production in 1882 and it was the only monastery to the right of the river Rhine that engaged in cheese production. The nearest monastery that engaged in cheese production is in France. In Belgium they are known for brewing beer, in Austria they make liqueurs. For a while the monastery in Slovenia was known for production of chocolate, and here in Banja Luka the monastery remained recognised for its cheese as it brought the culture of producing quality French cheese in 1882, and even before that in 1873 they started producing beer for their own use. They did not, of course, produce it because they were drunks, but for health purposes. Beer was used as medicine and monks who did physical work were allowed to drink one glass of beer a day.

Your job today as a director, working with Caritas, which is a major NGO, from not only around the world, but definitely from Croatia, where did the idea come up for what you do now in Levatch, which is on the northern side of Banja Luka?

The small history of Trappist cheese museum near Aleksandrovac

The idea arose from what the Trappists had, we did not invent anything new but just kept up with them. Together with our bishop, we decided to start a farm and start working the way they did. We decided to start something on our own, earn money and help people who need it, so in 2003 a cow farm was built with the help of international partners, we started milk production in 2007 and cheese in 2008. Trappists help and earn income. The Trappists are the founders of the cooperative and are employed in it, thus generating income.They have a pension and health insurance. A portion of the proceeds goes to the community so they can be funded.

One of our goals was to create jobs. We currently have 19 employees and a number of subcontractors that are some 100 families living off the cooperative. The second goal is the education of agricultural products and new technologies. In 2010 we started producing electricity fertilisers, reducing CO2 in the atmosphere. The goal is also that part of the earnings goes to the needs of Caritas for the public kitchen, and the help of the elderly. In recent years we have been working on the promotion of tourism because this is a country that has a lot to offer. We have beautiful nature, culture and food that we want to show people, so we made roads and organised tourist tours where they can visit monasteries and try our traditional dishes that are hard to find today because we are used to the fast pace of life. We hope to be able to introduce people to what the Trappists had in the past.

Two questions left for you. How much cheese does the farm produce in a year?

Very small quantities. 20 to 25 tons of cheese. somewhere around 1000 litres of milk per day. it may seem like a lot but believe me it isn’t. It’s only that much because we want quality. The Trappists had two cheese dairies and processed up to 10,000 litres of milk per day.

And finally, we are just hopefully getting out of a massive pandemic that has changed our lives, I think forever. So what is the future? What are the plans? If you can tell us of course, for the cheese and pivo that has this wonderful Trappist history.

Trappist Beer and Cheese from Banja Luka

We continue with our plans to employ young people, we encourage them not to leave the country but to stay. We do education of producers in cheese production. We organise workshops. Our goal is certainly to expand the range in addition to this Trappist cheese. We hope to go in the same direction for the beer. We want guests to have fond memories when they come to visit, to be remembered as a good experience. We hope that the pandemic will end soon and we are already arranging tours with people who want to visit us and experience a little of our tradition.

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