Franciscan study abroad program solidifies ties
STEUBENVILLE – A recent agreement moved the 14th-century Kartause Maria Thronus Iesu (Monastery of Our Lady, Throne of Jesus) in Gaming, Austria, long-time home to the Franciscan University of Steubenville study abroad program, under the sole management of the Foundation Maria Thron.
The foundation previously was responsible for the preservation and operation of about one-half of the property, with Austrian Architect Walter Hildebrand, who spearheaded the former Carthusian monastery’s restoration, maintaining the balance of the holdings.
A formal agreement signed by both parties on March 19, 2014, the feast of St. Joseph, went into effect on March 31, placing all land and buildings within the original walls of the Kartause under the Foundation Maria Thron, which is comprised of Americans and Austrians who oversee its vision and operations.
The agreement gives Franciscan University full access to some of the Kartause’s most special treasures, including the Bibliothek (library), dubbed the “Sistine Chapel of the North,” for its exquisite 18th-century frescoes that depict the sciences leading to truth and ultimately to God; and a Byzantine chapel that is under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Vienna.
A dedicated sports field is also included in the transfer.
Father Sean O. Sheridan, TOR, president of Franciscan University and president of the Foundation Maria Thron, said, “The foundation recognizes that the Kartause Maria Thronus Iesu is a priceless Austrian treasure-and a treasure of the universal Church. This agreement ensures that the Kartause will continue its mission as a Catholic center for spiritual and intellectual learning.”
Foundation board member, Dr. Erhard Hanslik declared, “This is an historic occasion. For the first time since the Carthusian monks were here, the Kartause is now operating under one entity.”
Austrian Bishop Klaus K?ng of the Diocese of Sankt P?lten will consecrate the entire Kartause to the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary at a ceremony to be held on May 2.
Looking ahead, Father Sheridan said that through working with Bishop K?ng, he hopes the Kartause can become more of a center for the new evangelization in Austria and Eastern Europe by providing retreats, conferences, and other forms of Christian outreach.
Since 1991, more than 6,000 Franciscan University students have lived and studied at the Kartause, an experience most describe as the “most memorable” of their college careers.
Comprising 8.5 acres at the edge of the town of Gaming in the foothills of the Austrian Alps, the Kartause includes the former monastery, now largely transformed into living space and classrooms for Franciscan students, courtyards, a Church whose magnificent frescos were restored in the last two decades to their original grandeur, and a popular hotel and restaurant.
Also operating in the Kartause is the Language and Catechetical Institute, a Catholic formation program for young people from the former and current Communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and China.
Duke Albrecht II, a member of the Habsburg family, who promised to build a monastery upon the safe return of his brother from a war, founded the Kartause in 1332. The Kartause monastery was dedicated to the Carthusian order that lived, prayed, and worked there until 1782, when Emperor Joseph II suppressed all cloistered orders. The complex slowly fell into a state of ruin until World War II when the Russians used the facility as a base of operations until the independence of Austria in 1955. In 1984, at the request of the Melk Abbey, Architect Walter Hildebrand began the renovations of the Kartause. In 1991, it became home to the Franciscan University study abroad program.