Otto von Habsburg buried, following ancient imperial rite
July 18, 2011
Otto von Habsburg, the last crown prince of the Austro-Hungarian empire before its dissolution in 1918, was laid to rest on July 16 in a colorful ceremony that evoked the glories of the 640-year Habsburg dynasty.
The son of Blessed Karl Habsburg, who was deposed as emperor during World War I, Otto von Habsburg died on July 4 at the age of 98. His funeral Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn at St. Stephen’s cathedral in Vienna, followed by a funeral procession that drew 10,000 mourners to the city’s streets.
Archbishops Peter Stephan Zurbriggen, the apostolic nunio in Vienna, read a message from Pope Benedict XVI praising the late Otto von Habsburg—who had become a prominent member of the European parliament and a bitter opponent of both fascists and Communists—as “a great European.” But despite his imperial background and personal credentials, Otto von Habsburg could not access his final resting place in Vienna’s Imperial Crypt without a display of humility that is a cherished part of the Habsburg funeral ritual. When the funeral procession arrived at the floor of the Capuchin monastery, the master of ceremonies announced his arrival, using his imperial and other royal titles. The Capuchin friars refused entry, saying: “We do not know him.” Again the master of ceremonies pounded on the door, this time reading off the academic and political achievements of the deceased. The Capuchins inside gave the same reply. Finally, when the friars answered a third knock on the door by asking who wanted entry, the reply was: “A poor sinner named Otto,” and the heavy doors swung open to admit his coffin.