Monday, October 01, 2012

October 2012 Travel Photo: Shrine to the Last Hapsburg in Washington DC

In downtown Washington DC is the church of St. Mary, Mother of God.  The parish was founded in the early 1800s to serve the German-speaking Catholic community of the District. Germans were at the time largest source of Catholic immigration to the United States before the Irish boom.  However, as time changed the German nature of the parish changed though the church never forgot its heritage.  Meanwhile, in the 1990s the Latin Mass-using Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) was given control of the parish.  The FSSP implemented the old, pre-Vatican II Latin Mass while still offering English-language massess.

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The combination of German roots, Latin mass, and being in the United States' capital has made the parish a sort capital for traditional German Catholicism which lost its strongholds in liberal Europe.  Somewhat naturally because of this yet still surprisingly the parish has attracted the attention of the House of Hapsburg.

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Washington DC served as a de facto rallying point for the family after their exile and bans from most of Europe (some only lifted at the end of the Cold War) following the fall of the empire after World War I.  Every October 21st, the FSSP holds a mass attended by the major heads of the imperial house honoring the Blessed Emperor Karl, the last emperor of Austria-Hungary.  Emperor Karl restored the overt, devout Catholicism of the house which slid from the head of Christendom to any other decadent royal family.  The house continued the traditional nature of the family's Catholic faith after his death in 1922 and even Vatican II's reforms.

St Mary, Mother of God has acted as the church of the Hapsburgs in other ways.  In early September Archduke Emry gave a relic of Karl to the Church to be placed in the pictured shrine.  Also in September Archduke Emry was married in the parish.

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