Monday, April 17, 2017

A Tour of the Bernardikapelle in Vienna

In my recent visit to Vienna for a liturgical study day sponsored by Una Voce Austria, I spent a morning walking around the center of the city with an old friend, Pater Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist., whose name will be known to some from his blog Sancrucensis. At a certain point, Pater Edmund mentioned that Heiligenkreuz Abbey owns a large building in the center of Vienna that it now rents out as a series of apartments to support the monastery. He said it housed a beautiful little chapel in honor of St. Bernard and asked if I'd like to see it. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued, and we made our way to it: the Bernardikapelle in the Heiligenkreuzerhof. The chapel is in the care of a monk who celebrates Mass there from time to time.

Although I am not generally a huge fan of southern German and Austrian Baroque, I found this intimate Baroque chapel quite a lovely, harmonious space, with a number of interesting features. The high altar has been preserved and is still used for both forms of the Roman Rite (always in Latin):

The ceiling is decorated with typical Baroque exuberance:

There is a little balcony at the back of the chapel that opens on to the abbot's private Viennese apartment. Business or politics would bring the abbot to Vienna, and he needed a place to stay. What could be better than to be able to pray his office looking upon the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel below?

The main altar was draped for Passiontide. Over the altar is a painting of the famous scene where St. Bernard mystically received milk from the Virgin Mary. Pater Edmund told me that a later generation found the literal representation too distracting and painted over the stream of milk and the uncovered breast:

The altar cards at the high altar are hand-written -- something one sees fairly often in Europe, but always a source of wonder to me, accustomed to modern printed (and often  mass-produced) cards:

On the left side of the high altar is a statue of one of Heiligenkreuz's principal patrons, St. Leopold, who is depicted innumerable times in Austrian churches:

There are side altars for St. Joseph and St. Anne:

The altar cards at the side altars are identical, and, while printed, are obviously very old -- I would guess 18th century at the latest:

While walking to the small sacristy I noticed a side table with a candle, as if in expectation of a prelate's arrival:

In the sacristy, the silver water and wine vessels caught my eye, as well as the chalice, with a scruple spoon, contained in a leather case:

At the back of the chapel one finds a bust of Blessed Charles I, last Emperor of Austria, with a first-class relic in the wooden stand. I was told that once a month a Mass in his honor is celebrated in this chapel.

The rector of the chapel has prepared a nice 4-minute video of the chapel, for those who wish to see more:

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: