Sunday evening combined two of my favourite experiences – on this occasion I’m not referring to either Football or Austrian Wine. No, in this instance it was the chance to see a live performance and to have an excuse to wander around another interesting old building.
We were in the Ruprechtskirche one of the oldest (if not the oldest) church in central Vienna. The reason for our visit was a performance of Doomsdays by Konrad Rennert and Boris Hauf. Sitting in the pews of this small church provided a wonderfully intimate setting for the mix of readings and music that kept the audience absorbed throughout. Like the rest of the audience, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance and was for much of the time lost in the sounds and feel of the intertwined speech and music. This was despite the fact that Doomsdays was performed in German and I managed to glean only every third or fourth word. However, the rest of the audience did not face my linguistic shortcomings (most people seem to be happy to communicate in German or English, no matter what their mother tongue, and as ever put me to shame for my mono-linguistic limitations) and it was clear from the post performance conversations that those able to gather the deeper meanings of the piece were
full of praise.
The Ruprechtskirche is of Romanesque design and as such an unusual building in Vienna. R commented on the simplicity of the interior and how the church reminded her of churches in England. As the conversations about the performance moved from English to German I switched my attention to enjoying the architecture of this lovely building.
I’m of the opinion that as parents we should be automatically issued with a special iPhone App called ‘Parenting Skills for Dummies’ or some such equally ridiculous title. This would be your basic starter kit package and have that wonderful App update function, an absolute necessity as I generally find that successful strategies used with my eight year old only work once or at best twice. Parents should then be able to supplement the start kit with Apps reflecting political, cultural, religious and other specialist interest and needs, as well as an App addressing local geo/social demands.
Yet again, last night, I found myself in need of such modern technological support. The issue in question related to whether or not H should go with her school to a Roman Catholic Church this morning. Although an Austrian citizen she was baptised into the Anglican Church. Her current religious views swing between a mild commitment to Anglicanism and a more God’s OK but ‘church’ is boring let go skateboarding stance. Whilst when in England she quiet enjoyed the religious education lessons, here in Vienna she has discovered that a benefit of her ‘Protestant’ faith is more free time as she does not attend Roman Catholic education classes. She’s also becoming aware, through some of her classmates, that a practical benefit of a non-religious life is (as she would say) ‘no boring church’ and ‘more free time’.
Now for simple logistical reasons H needs to go with her class to the RC Church. For cultural, religious and educational reasons this would in fact be a good experience for her. I, as a liberal, parent want H to make her own choices in the long run about faith and so wish her to develop an informed opinion. I, as a liberal parent, try to persuade my daughter to change her mind about and embrace these future benefits despite the clear and immediate advantages for her of sticking to her position. All of this is to be achieved without expressing any of my own views on the RC Church, accidentally creating a religion defining moment, not being directive (unless absolutely desperate) and being able to go back into the living room and tell her mother ‘mission accomplished’. All I will say on the debate that took place is that eight year olds are incisive debaters, anyone listening would have been in stitches of laughter, and it was ‘agreed’ with significant reluctance that H would join her classmates in Church (and no mention would be made of those getting a lie in this morning because they chose not to attend).
So if there are any App developers out there working on my ‘Parenting Skills for stressed liberal’, please get a move!
As I travelled around the Ramsau and surrounding area, during our New Year break, I was surprised to see a number of Protestant churches. Now Protestant churches are not a common sight in Roman Catholic Austria and my interest was sufficiently aroused to briefly divert my energies away from my eternal hunt for another good coffee and my interest of that moment – photographing the amazing landscapes.
After a little research involving actually reading some of the local literature, I quickly discovered that I was staying in one of the few thoroughly Protestant communities in Austria. A little further research stirred distance memories of history lessons on the subject of the Reformation and a little internet reading reminded me that this part of the world provided strongholds for both Lutheranism and the Anabaptists. I also discovered that the Ramsau area during the 16th Century had been part of the Salzburg principality which was itself not part of Austria.
The fate of Protestantism in the 16th Century was decided at the Battle of White Mountain on the 8th November 1620 and Protestantism was only legalised in Austria through Joseph II’s ‘Edict of Toleration’ in 1781. It seems that the isolated Ramsau was able to weather the Counter Reformation and ongoing percussion, remaining a Protestant community to this day.
Although H is an Austrian citizen she is also an Anglican. One consequence of this is that she does not attend (Catholic) Religion classes at school. H is delighted to be, in this instance, of the ‘Protestant’ persuasion as it means she finishes school a hour earlier twice a week.
Approximately 4.7% of the Austrian population are said to be Protestant. According to the 2001 census, 73.6% of the country’s population described themselves as Roman Catholic and a further 4.2% of the population described themselves as Muslim. I recently read a report that 87,000 people left the Catholic Church in Austria during 2010 – membership being a formal process including payments to the Church hence the reporting of ‘resignations’. These figures, the report stated means that 65% of the overall 8.5 million people living in Austria are (formally) Catholics, down from 89 per cent in 1961. It seems with the current levels of exodus and the fact that immigrants to Austria tend not to be Roman Catholic, the percentage of (formal) Roman Catholics in Austria may decrease to below 50 per cent in 20 years.