ARCHDUKE OTTO VON HABSBURG’S FUNERAL IN VIENNA ON JULY 16, 2011 GIVES A GLIMPSE OF OF AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN SPLENDOR
For several hours, Imperial Habsburg Austria enveloped Vienna as the impressive funeral took place on July 16, 2011, of Archduke Otto von Habsburg, who died at at the age 98 in his home in Bavaria on July 4th. The Archduke was the eldest son of the last Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, Blessed Karl I and his wife, Zita of Bourbon-Parma. Archduke Otto was six years old when the Austro-Hungarian Empire fell in 1918. Archduke Otto had been an ardent anti-Nazi and anti-Communist, who was especially opposed to the annexation of Austria by Hitler. For two decades, Archduke Otto served in the European Parliament. Not long before the Berlin Wall fell, Otto von Habsburg co-organized a ‘Pan-European picnic’ which took place near the Hungarian border to Austria. This significant event helped lead to the fall of the Iron Curtain. Thanks to this gathering, some 700 East Germans were also able to escape to the west.
As befitting the last heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the funeral of Otto von Habsburg was full of pomp, ceremony and faith. Vienna, the former imperial capital, was awash in colorful flags, clerical garb, military uniforms, and official mourners clad heavily in black. A Requiem Mass was celebrated at St. Stephen’s Cathedral by the Archbishop of Vienna, Christoph Cardinal Schoenbrun. Seven bishops from nations comprising the former Austro-Hungarian Empire including parts of modern day Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Poland, Italy and Montenegro, assisted Cardinal Schoenbrun in the Mass.
In attendance at the funeral were members of various royal families including King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, Prince Hans Adam of Liechtenstein, along the former monarchs, King Michael of Romania and Tsar Simeon of Bulgaria, and a number of European leaders.
After the Requiem Mass, a procession took place in the streets of Vienna as the coffin was taken to the city’s Capuchin Church, traditional burial place of the Habsburgs. Thousands watched as the cortege made its way to its destination. Once the coffin arrived the friary, a special ceremony took place in which the master of ceremonies knocked three times at the church’s door in order to gain entry for the coffin. At the first knock, the master of ceremonies requests entry by giving the imperial and royal titles held by the deceased. Entry is denied by the Capuchin friars, with the words , “we do not know him!” At the second knock, the master of ceremonies requests entry by giving the deceased’s academic, political and civic titles. Again, entry is denied with the words, “we do not know him!” At the third knock, the master of ceremonies is asked, who goes there. He requests entry on behalf of the deceased by saying: “Otto – a mortal and a sinner.” At this, the Capuchin friars open the door and allow the coffin to proceed for internment.
Archduke Otto von Habsburg’s body is interred in the Imperial Crypt at the Capuchin Church, alongside that of his late wife, Regina, who died in 2010. The Imperial Crypt is the final resting place of dozens of emperors and empresses as well as other members of the Habsburg dynasty. According to Habsburg tradition, Archduke Otto von Habsburg’s heart is to be interred in the Benedictine Pannonhalma Abbey, in Hungary. With the death and burial of Archduke Otto von Habsburg, the end of an era of European royal history has come to a close.