Moving on to Vienna

The Austrian imperial family, the Habsburgs, were traditionally buried in the crypt of the simple Capuchin Church in Vienna.

When the imperial coffin was carried to the Church, the door was barred and a monk would ask, “Who seeks to be buried here?” The Chamberlain replied with the person’s full title. The monk would reply, “I do not know him. Who seeks to be buried here?”

Again the Chamberlain would reply with the full set of titles. After the coffin was refused entrance the second time, the monk asked his question a second time and the Chamberlain replied using the deceased’s Christian name and adding, “a simple sinner.” The coffin was then allowed entry.

As a tourist, the first coffin or sarcophagus that you see is an extraordinary dual coffin for Maria Theresa and her husband, Francis. Your first impression is that they are resting on a matrimonial bed, lovingly turned towards one another. It is a profoundly moving scene, but one will note the MT holds the sword, scepter, and other symbols of office.

(NB, the caption from Google is wrong. Ignore it.)

Before them, the simple coffin of their son, the unloved and unlovely reformer Joseph II and the tiny coffins of MT’s three children who died in infancy. Strung through the crypt, you can walk past the coffins of other Habsburg on display until you reach the coffin of Franz Joseph, his wife Elizabeth, and their son Rudolph. The last reigning emperor to be so buried.

The Capuchin crypt remains an active family burial place. Although my paternal Grandfather renounced his oath of allegiance to the King of Hungary when he joined the United States Army in 1916, I still like to visit the tombs of his former rulers when I am in Vienna and pay my respects. When I am there this spring, it will be part of my first day’s agenda.


About George Vascik, Historian

A 1988 graduate of the University of Michigan, I have taught history at Miami University since 1992. I maintain blogs on teaching Western Civilization and on Great War. My research focuses on anti-Semitism and rural politics in northwest Germany. I am completing a monograph for Bloomsbury Press, Anti-Semitism and Rural Politics. You can follow my project at Along with Mark Sadler, I have published a book of primary documents on the Stab-in-the-Back Myth (Dolchstoßlegende). I also invite you to visit my profession web page at
This entry was posted in Austria, Habsburgs, HST 122, Reflection, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

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