Articles > Mystery
What is holy, sacred, worthy? The Viennese Imperial Treasury has got its own relic shrine and among others it hosts the Holy Lance, supposedly used by the Roman soldier Longinus to pierce the savior's side on the cross. In fact originating from the 8th century, it was attributed extraordinary powers, also sometimes referred to as the "Spear of Destiny." Some say, after World War II it was secretly exchanged and transferred from Germany to the US, now among others responsible for the United States - as by former president Jimmy Carter - to "become, for the first time since the Roman Empire...the dominant military and political factor...on Earth." On the other hand there is a fourth-century agate dish, "acquired" from Constantinople in the early 13th century for at that time thought to be the Holy Grail. And countless legends entwine around that myth. (Simply "fascinating," as Mr. Spock would put it... Well, we had this Star Trek quotation in the title already, didn't we?)
What is mystical, cryptic, worthwhile to explore? Obscure theories and prophecies are quite popular again these days, explaining the success of esoteric shops, popping out like mushrooms, while interest in traditional religions declines. What I had remembered following 9/11 was hearing as a kid of Nostradame's prophecies, speaking of the New City burning around the turn of the century, then interpreted as the beginning of a Third World War. Revisiting the topic after the terror attack on the NYC Twin Towers, what I found was rather vague, almost disappointing. Believing history would repeat itself, with these verses Nostradamus might have actually described a past eruption of the Vesuvius volcano in Italy, in which case "nea polis" stands for Napels, not for New (York) City. This is what the verse (under century 1, quatrain 87) said:
"Earthshaking fire from the center of the Earth
Will cause trembling around the New City.
Two great rocks will be at war for a long time,
Then Arethuse (Hebrew for earth) reddens a new river."
(Michel de Nostredame, 1555)
Calvary Hill, symbol of the mystery of salvation, has probably inspired numerous churches around the world. One resides in the 17th Viennese district in Kalvarienberggasse and is a great place to visit around the time of its Easter market. The market itself is held under the sign of the tree climbing Zacchaeus, a toy locally known as "Bamkraxler".
Unlikely more contemporary is an appearance, one of those visions you should consult a doctor on, following a quotation accredited to an Austrian chancellor (as well as to the German chancellor Helmut Schmidt). Fatima, like Lourdes, is well known for a Marian Apparition, with an incredible effect on popular devotion. The third secret from the 1917 Fatima revelation to three children was only disclosed to public in the year 2000. Among others, Pope John Paul II believed that the Virgin Mary had influenced the 1981 assassination attempt on him in a way so that the bullet just missed his heart and he would survive in order to complete his mission to help break open the Communistic Eastern Block in Europe, as happening in 1989. Interpretations of the third secret, speaking of a Bishop dressed in white being killed during a massacre on clerics, however also inspired the interpretation that it dealt with an in the meantime abandoned nuclear war, rather than a new persecution of Christians or another terrorist attack, similar to 9/11. "The Fatima Secret" is the title of a book I had read on the subject, by an author who also wrote about "The Discovery of the Grail." But more on that topic further below.
Unusual, at the least, was the ad by the Imperial Treasury, which I discovered at the Vienna Airport, cynically proclaiming: "Sorry, we don't have emperors, only their jewels!" Among others, they were gathered over the centuries thanks to a typical Austrian way to form political alliances and acquire territories, experessed in the Latin motto: "Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube," in English: "Let others wage war, you, fortunate Austria, marry!" (It still comes to mind with international marriage, I guess.) As part of the Hapsburg's matrimonial policy of the 15th century, even the Burgundy treasure found its way to Vienna. Unfortunately not the Nibelung hoard, which is said to still rest on the bottom of the river Rhine, as colourfully described in "The Song of the Nibelungs," central European poetry from 1200 AD and a term used synonymously for the royal family of the Burgundies. How deeply rooted the story is in our cultural awareness may be demonstrated by the fact that standing guard during his military service used to remind a friend of mine of Volker and Hagen's night watch at the Hun fortress. At no other point though the proverbial, almost pointless while unshakeable loyalty of the Nibelungs (or "La fidelite des Nibelungen" as the French say) becomes more visible than in the passage, where Grimhild offers to spare them upon handing over Siegfried's assassin Hagen, sinister mastermind behind the retention of Burgundy power. Only to receive the reply: "No, we'd rather all die than to sacrifice one of us!" A medieval heroic epic of doomed loyalty, against the historic background of the first Burgundy kingdom's end in the Late Antiquity, when incursions of the Huns in the 5th century triggered a Germanic migration (in Chinese called XiongNu for "ferocious slaves," the Huns are ancestors of the Mongols, who would themselves just use the word "hun" to describe a human). What then became part of the larger Merovingian Frankish domain, developed in the Late Middle Ages to the independent duchy Burgundy, through the Netherlands reaching up to the North Sea. And if there is one lesson from the fatal quarrel of the two queens, the beginning of the tale's tragic end, then obviously it refers to the quotation: "Women's sharp tongues have already caused a lot of mischief!" (A truly timeless statement, although the species of the chatterbox is not limited to one gender only.) With their dynasty long gone, Bourgogne is again a French province, while the term Burgundy up to this day is used to describe extravagant lifestyle and excellent red wine. Cheers.
"In Linz it begins", as an old Austrian saying goes. The Nibelung Bridge across the Danube River connects the outer district of Urfahr with the city center of the Upper Austrian capital. What does begin further east in Lower Austria is the historic "Nibelung County", locally known as "Nibelungengau" with its center Poechlarn, seat of the legendary margrave Ruediger in the Nibelung song.
Unbelievable how History repeats itself sometimes, isn't it? At least up to a certain degree. We remember April 1955 in Moscow, when a delegation of the Austrian government opened the door widely for a State Treaty, ending the country's ten year allied occupation that had followed the German incorporation. Legend has it that during dinner with Chrustchew, in tipsy atmosphere Foreign Minister Figl whispered into Chancellor Raab's ear: "Now the melancholy song of the vine pest, then they are soft." After World War II a separated country for no less than 45 years, in July 1990 also during a Moscow visit of the German chancellor a breakthrough in negotiations was achieved, which meant the end of the German Democratic Republic shortly before its economic bankruptcy, and was contingent on economic assistance for Russia. In conversation with Gorbachev, Chancellor Kohl made it clear that the presented chance for the unification of Germany had to be seized. As he reveals in the third part of his memoirs, he then quoted Bismarck, who had from Prussia overseen the German unification and foundation of the second German empire in 1871 through ending the Austrian hegemony: "You can't make it on your own. You can just wait, until you hear God's footsteps echo through the tide of events; then jump forward and get a hold of a corner of his coat - that's all." Conspiracy theorists again say, the secretly agreed division of Europe into East and West had been limited from the beginning to 50 years. Which ultimately had to lead to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989.
The Nibelung monument in Poechlarn depicts the city arms of Nibelung towns that are mentioned in the medieval song of Siegfried, Kriemhild, Gunther, Hagen & Co. in the Danube region.
"Who has visions, should see a doctor -
Wer Visionen hat, soll zum Arzt gehen."
(quote attributed to Franz Vranitzky, Austrian chancellor)
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