Austria - Patrons day of the Order of Saint Michael (September 2013)
The Order of the Most Worthy Freemen and Knights of St. Michael, MO, or the Order of the Knights of St. Michael for short, is one of our long standing friendly organizations, especially within the Union - CSLI. The mutual visits to their respective events are always among the highlights of the year for both organizations. It shows again and again how good it can be when groups with the same or similar goals celebrate together in comradeship, mutual respect and friendship over many years without competitiveness and without jealousy.
This invitation was accepted straight away, but had some minor complications. The SatNav took the delegation to a white church on the left side of Market Street, but it was the wrong church. Excitedly the first guests there came to meet the delegation but then had to re-direct them to the right church, pointing some kilometers further on to the fortified church of St. Michael.
Even the Order's Cleric, Mag. Thomas Lackner who was to celebrate the Festive Mass, was virtually in the neighborhood though on the other bank of the Danube, but only finally reached the venue an hour late.
The history of this ancient but modest fortified church was carefully explained (courtesy of the lady sacristan) and its uniqueness pointed out. This was formerly the headquarters of an extensive parish and mother church of the Wachau, first mentioned in the year 987. The Gothic part of the church was built between 1500 and1523, but it was completely destroyed by two fires in 1532 and 1630 then restored in 1634. A real rarity is the organ of the church dating from 1650. Still playable, it is one of the oldest in Austria. On the church roof are seven animal figures representing deer and horses. In legend they are known as 'the seven rabbits of St. Michael'.
Finally the Order's Cleric arrived and the Festive Mass began. The musical accompaniment was by the Cantemus Choir under the direction of Mr. Erich Klug. At the end of the Mass, and after the blessing of the Insignia, Senator hc Wolfgang Steinhardt presented Grand Master Michael Kress of The Order of the Knights of St. Michael with a gilded and ornate chain of office as a personal gift.
Now at last former Mayor Prof. Fritz Bauer Mies could begin the wine presentation. Briefly strengthened the delegation proceeded to the Aggstein Castle ruins. The dirt road from the parking lot up to the castle brought embarrassment to some ladies and gentlemen whose shoes couldn't take the rough going, no problem for the ladies with a second pair in their car, but for the men Tixo duct tape had to serve.
The Order of the Knights of St. Michael then attended their Convention and General Assembly, in which our President participated as an honorary member. Most guests chose a tour of Aggstein Castle.
A young lady castle guide explained the site's history with anecdotes about the property. It was originally built in the 12th Century by Manegold the III. In 1181 it came into the possession of the Kuenringer family. The last Kuenringer, Leutold II, held the castle from 1348 to 1355 but after that it fell into disrepair. In 1429 Duke Albrecht V assigned the castle to Jorg Scheck von Wald commissioning him to rebuild the ruined castle to secure the passage of ships on theDanubebut, over time, he became a robber baron looting the ships on the river. In 1529 the castle was burned down by the Ottomans (during the first Turkish siege of Vienna). Again it was rebuilt and inhabited and was acquired in 1606 by Baroness Anna Polheim von Parz who built a small hospital in the grounds.