Sunday, 23 July 2006

The Head of St Cordula

As you can see from the photo, priests know how to have fun on holiday!

My travelling companion in Vienna, Fr Richard Whinder, has long had a devotion to the virgin martyr, St Cordula. She is little known in the English-speaking world, but von Balthasar used her story in his book Cordula oder der Ernstfall (1966), later published in English as The Moment of Christian Witness. Little is known about her, except that she was one of the 11,000 companions of St Ursula, who made a pilgrimage to Rome and ended up being martyred at Cologne. As Cordula witnessed the massacre of her 10,999 companions, she took fright and hid in the ship. Ashamed of her cowardly (but very human) action, she came out the next day and was promptly martyred - which is why her feast (22 October) is the day after that of St Ursula and her company.

On Friday we were given a fascinating tour of the treasury of Stift Klosterneuburg (not normally open to the public), thanks to our host, Dom Daniel Nash. Imagine Fr Richard's delight when a cupboard was opened to reveal various skulls of early martyrs, including St Cordula and some of her 'Saint Companions.' The picture above captures the moment of his fervent veneration...

Other highlights included some stunning vestments (made from fabric, not leather):

and the Archducal Crown of Austria, which has been housed at Stift Klosterneuburg since the seventeenth century. Below the crown you can see a papal excommunication directed against all those who remove the crown from the Stift for prolonged periods - including (and it will come as no surprise) the reformist Joseph II, who took no notice of such traditions!



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