Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Schloss Mayerling

Schloss Mayerling - today a monastery, the name of this hunting lodge 25 southwest of Vienna stands synonymous with one of the most talked about deaths in royal history, the murder-suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria and his teenage mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera on January 30, 1889. Only three years earlier, Crown Prince Rudolf had purchased the manor from Heiligenkreuz Abbey, the oldest continuously occupied Cistercian monastery in the world, and turned it into a hunting lodge. Not much seems to be known about Schloss Mayerling's history prior to Rudolf buying it.

And also not about his time there apart from that fateful day in January of 1889, when the son of Emperor Franz Josef I and Empress Elisabeth 'Sisi' and his young mistress were found dead by Rudolf's valet Loschek and Count Joseph Hoyos, a hunting companion of the Crown Prince. And while rumours and conspiracy theories flew high for decades, the discovery of farewell letters of Mary Vetsera only earlier this year seem to confirm that Rudolf indeed first killed his mistress and then himself in a suicide pact.
After the death of his only son, the distraught Emperor had the hunting lodge turned into a monastery, which was settled by nuns of the Discalced Carmelite Order in December of 1889. Emperor Franz Josef commissioned architects Heinrich Schemfil und Josef Schmalzhofer to carry out the necessary construction works. For more then 125 years, the nuns have now been praying for the salvation of Crown Prince Rudolf's soul: The place where he killed himself and Mary Vetsera having been turned into a chapel, with the altar allegedly standing in exactly the place where their bed stood. 

Two years ago, Schloss Mayerling made nationwide headlines in Austria when the usually very secluded living sisters of the Discalced Carmelite Order went public about the struggles they had keeping up the building. Since then, the Austrian state has co-financed a new visitors centre as well as new exhibition rooms. As I visited too late in the day to actually get in, check out these pictures.

Good to know:
Schloss Mayerling, also known as Karmel Mayerling today, is open to visitors daily from 9am to 5pm (October 9 to January 1) or 5:30pm (April 1 to October 31). In addition, it's open on Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays between January 2 and March 31 from 9am to 5pm. Admission is 5.70 euros. More information here.

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