The Austrian Catholic Church will officially begin a year of honour from 11th January to remember the founder of Austria’s Catholic Habsburg Empire, Maximilian I, to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.
The country’s decision to publicly honour a former Catholic ruler, who died 12th January, 1519, marks a noteworthy change in mainstream Austrian culture, which has sought to distance the country from its Christian past and national history in recent decades.
A full year of scheduled national celebrations commending his reign has been dubbed the “Maximilian Year.” The Austrian military diocese will lead the liturgical celebrations with a special requiem Mass at St George’s Cathedral, a basilica located inside the national military academy in Wiener Neustadt.
Celebrations and Masses to honour Maximilian have been co-ordinated by Austrian church and government authorities. The emperor is being commended for his Catholic beliefs, peace strategies and efforts to make peace between Christian leaders and the Ottoman Empire during his lifetime. He is also credited with arranging marriages between his family members to people of different countries to prevent wars.
The emperor was baptised in St George’s Cathedral in 1459 and is also buried there. During a Mass led by Bishop Werner Freistetter of the military diocese, a new altar will be consecrated in the cathedral and honour given to the emperor, who lies buried inside the church in a new tomb. An accompanying “Kaiserfest” will be held on the military academy grounds. A second Mass will be held in Innsbruck.
The historic St George’s Cathedral, housed in a garrison castle, was destroyed during World War II and took painstaking efforts to restore. Today it serves Austrian military officers and houses an ornate reliquary.
According to Austrian newspaper Tiroler Tagezeitung, the festival year will be marked with hundreds of celebratory events across Austria, including light shows, concerts, musicals and children’s programmes.
Photo: The tomb of Austrian Emperor Maximilian I is seen in 2017 inside St George’s Cathedral, a basilica located within the national military academy in Wiener Neustadt, Austria. A new tomb has since been constructed.