Friedrich Johannes Jacob Celestin von Schwarzenberg
St. Vitus Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
Friedrich Johannes Jacob Celestin von Schwarzenberg was born in 1809. Into wealth, influence and power. His father was John Joseph, Prince of Schwarzenberg. And his mother was Pauline d’Arenberg, a member of the wealthiest family of the Habsburg Netherlands. But tragedy ripped Friedrich’s young life apart when he was only a year old. In 1810, John Joseph was appointed Austrian ambassador to France. And as such, he and his wife were expected to celebrate when Napoleon Bonaparte married his second wife, Marie-Louise. The Schwarzenbergs decided to throw a ball in Napoleon and Marie-Louise’s honour at the Austrian Embassy on the Chausée d’Antin. But when the party got into full swing, the music playing, the guests drinking, dancing and laughing, a fire broke out in the ballroom of the Austrian Embassy. John Joseph escaped the flames. So did Napoleon and Marie-Louise. But Pauline had brought her young daughter, Friedrich’s older sister, with her to the party. In the panic to get out of the blazing ballroom, Pauline had got separated from her little girl. And that little girl was nowhere to be seen. Pauline refused to leave without the child. She ran back into the flames to look for her. So it was, she perished. Along with her lost little girl. After the fire, Friedrich’s family carried on as best they could. His mother’s sister Eleanora helped bring up the little boy. Friedrich was bright, compassionate, studious. And before long, he’d realized what he’d been put on this earth to do. He had a calling from God. First, he studied theology. Then, he began his training for the priesthood. Perhaps because of his family’s status, Friedrich’s climb up the priestly career ladder was swift, and assured. By the time he was 26, in 1835, he was Archbishop of Salzburg. Two years later, in 1837, Friedrich’s mettle as archbishop would be tested. The Imperial Resolution of 1837 demanded that Protestants in the Austro-Hungarian Empire return to the Catholic faith. Or emigrate. Friedrich was all for people returning to the Catholic faith. But he didn’t believe those who refused to do so should be made to give up their homes, their jobs, their way of life. And so he spoke out in their defense. Ultimately, it made little difference. But he’d made his point. Compassion. During his time in Salzburg, Friedrich founded a music college, a convent, a hospital and a school for the poor. In 1850, he was appointed Archbishop of Prague, and thereafter became Cardinal. In Prague, he continued his good work. He set up relief funds for the needy, supported the publication of new books, encouraged the young in the study of music and art. He died on 27 March 1885, at the age of 75. He’s remembered to this day in this grand monument at St Vitus Cathedral, under which lie his remains. Wealthy, influential and powerful until the day he died.