Monday, 14 January 2013

Pietas Austriaca

'After the Habsburg lands had recovered to some extent from the consequences of the Thirty Years' War, the populace of this region was struck by yet another misfortune: the plague. It came from Hungary in 1678 and quickly spread to the west. It is thought to have claimed some fifty thousand victims in Vienna alone. In an effort to escape this epidemic, the royal household fled to Prague in 1679. Here too, however, the number of fatalities was not insignificant: some six thousand people met their death in the city by the Moldau.

The plague had barely been brought under control when disaster once again struck the still-suffering populace. This time it was the Turks. As is well known, they stood before the gates of Vienna in 1683 after having plundered and pillaged the surrounding countryside. Although the Turks could be repulsed by the relieving army under the command of King John III of Poland (John Siebiski), the running fights exhausted the resources of the strained populace. During subsequent years the invaders were increasingly driven back to the east and defeated in a series of battles by Prince Eugene of Savoy, the emperor's famous general. The final triumph over the Turks and over the Plague, with the latter returning, however, in a devastating epidemic in 1713, marked the "birth" of the Pietas Austriaca, the lived piety of the Habsburgs. In gratitude for having survied such extreme misfortune, people erected plague columns and similar monuments in many places and held pilgrimages and processions in honor of the saints who had protected them. The most magnificent testimony to this newly strengthened piety was certainly the Karlskirche (Church of St. Charles) in Vienna that Emperor Charles VI, fulfilling a vow, had built by Johann Bernhard Fischer in 1713. The spirit of the times also found expression in music, where court ceremony and lived piety met ...'

From the liner notes to CPO's 2006 2CD Vienna 1700: Baroque Music from Austria, one of a number of interesting albums exploring the music of the 17th and 18th centuries.

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