• Eucharistic devotion
  • Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary
  • Other Christ-centered and Marian Devotions
  • Devotion to Angels and Saints
  • Benedictine Oblate

Benedictine Oblate

Monastère Saint Pierre de Solesmes

       Life-long Relationship between Empress Zita and the Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes

       The life-long relationship between Solesmes and Empress Zita is well documented in the archives of the women’s Benedictine monastery of Sainte-Cécile. Indeed this relationship started when Zita was only seven years old when she made her first visit from April to May of 1899, and it lasted until her death. A last phone call took place on February 26, 1989, two weeks before Zita’s death on March 14th, but her last visit in person was April to May 1985, when she was 93 years of age!

Solesmes was a second family to the Empress. Her family roots were deep and many at the Benedictine Abbey. Zita’s grandmother, Titular Queen Adelheid of Portugal, retired to Sainte-Cécile’s monastery in 1896, and was later joined by three of Zita’s sisters: Marie-Adélaïde, known as Mother Prioress Marie-Bénédicte (1885-1959) in 1908, Françoise, known as Mother Scholastique (1890-1978) in 1913, and Maria-Antonia, known as Mother Maria-Antonia (1895-1977) in 1919. A first degree cousin on her mother’s side, Mother Agnès of Löwenstein [Wertheim-Rosenberg], also became a nun there.

       On May 24, 1926, the Servant of God made her profession as an oblate of Sainte-Cécile; but it was done at the monastery of St-Pierre in the presence of the Rt. Rev. Germain Cozien, abbot of St. Pierre. Many other members of her family were oblates there: her mother, Duchess Maria-Antonia of Parma, her sister Princess Isabelle, with whom she lived for a long time, and her brother Duke Xavier of Bourbon-Parma (1899-1977), who was buried in the abbatial cemetery. Even her lady-in-waiting, Countess Kersenbrock, was an oblate at St-Pierre. Finally, among her own children, her daughter Archduchess Adelheid became a Benedictine oblate on May 18, 1931, and Archduke Rudolf and Archduchess Charlotte became oblates in 1950 at the Benedictine monastery of Regina Laudis, in the State of Connecticut (U.S.A.), a foundation from Jouarre.

       From February to July 1909, Zita stayed at the Benedictine monastery of Ryde, on the Isle of Wight; which was where the monastery of Sainte-Cécile went into exile when anti-Catholic legislation was adopted in France around 1900. She regularly returned to Solesmes, in spite of distances (i.e. even when she lived in the U.S.A.) and her obligations as a mother of eight children. It was mostly during the years from 1955 to 1983 that the Empress came back regularly for longer stays, sometimes weeks or months at a time, and often in the summer, to participe in the great Benedictine feasts (jubilees, funerals and the consecration of new buildings in Kergonan), because by that time, her children were married, the situation in Austria was improving, and her duties allowed her to devote more time to her spiritual life. Her stays at Solesmes from 1899 to 1985 amount to more than 1,400 days, a total of almost four years!

       Other Bonds with the Benedictine Family

       Empress Zita always held the Benedictine order, and specifically Solesmes, in high esteem: five monks from Pannonhalma (Hungary) helped with the education of the heir to the throne, Otto, as well as with a 14-month stay he made at the monastery of Saint-Maurice-et-Saint-Maur in Clervaux, Luxemburg, (1927-1928), near his uncle Félix, consort Grand-Duke of Luxemburg. In the same manner, in 1937, her son Karl-Ludwig graduate from high school from the Schottengymnasium, a premier Benedictine school in Vienna, and where his father the Emperor had also been a student.  Finally, one has to mention Tihany and Mariazell as monasteries that were also important for Zita.