09 December 2007

Historic Visit of l'Ordre de la Toison d'Or to Dijon

In 1430, Philippe le Bon, Duke of Burgundy, created the Order of the Golden Fleece dedicated to its patron, St. Andrew, on whose feast day the Order celebrates its yearly chapter meeting and its principal feast. The Order exists to manifest
the very great and perfect love that we have for the noble estate and order of knighthood. [W]e desire the honor and increase, by which the true Catholic Faith, the faith of our mother, the Holy Church, and the tranquillity and prosperity of the public may be, as far as possible, defended, guarded and maintained; we, to the glory and praise of the Almighty, our Creator and Redeemer, in reverence of his glorious mother the Virgin Mary, and to the honor of my lord Saint Andrew, Apostle and Martyr....
After the Reformation, it remained an exclusively Catholic institution. The chevaliers held their yearly feasts for several years in the ducal palace in Burgundy until the loss of the duchy to France, after which chapter meetings were held in Bruges and Brussels. The Austrian Order, nearly destroyed by the new Austrian Republic after the First World War, was given seven new members by Blessed Charles of Austria before his death. After the Second World War, the republic, less hostile to the Order, decreed that it was "an independent legal entity in international law", and declared the Order's treasures and archives the sole property of the Order.

Though their principal feast is held yearly at the Hofburg Palace, this year the Austrian Order of the Golden Fleece chose, for the first time in over 500 years, to return to Dijon to celebrate its chapter meeting in the city in which it was founded. The chapter meeting was held in secrecy in the Crypt of St. Bénigne Cathedral, after which prayers were said before the buried remains of Duke Phillip the Good, followed by a solemn Mass celebrated by Archbishop Roland Minnerath, with a number of priests from the diocese, including members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher and the Knights of Malta.

Archbishop Minnerath recites prayers for the dead before a wall in which are encased the remains of the Dukes of Burgundy, with Archduke Karl of Austria holding a crucifix containing relics of St. Andrew

Priests of the diocese, including the Curé of St.-Bénigne Cathédrale, Père Dominique Garnier, of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher, process to the Altar, with Archbishop Minnerath in the rear.

Archduke Karl and Pére Louis de Raynal, Master of Ceremonies, walk up to place the relics of St. Andrew on the High Altar. If I am not mistaken, I believe the good father is wearing a chasuble with the insignia of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher. Someone more in the know might be better able to inform us on the point.

Seated at the right is Archduke Otto von Habsburg, Crown Prince of Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia, eldest son of Blessed Charles of Austria, and Pretender to the Austrian throne since the age of 10. He is now 95, and it was at his insistence that the Order return to Dijon.

Archduke Karl, Prince Imperial of Austria, Prince Royal of Hungary and Bohemia, wearing the traditional collar of the Golden Fleece

The Archduke and other members of the Order process past the Palais des Ducs, home of the Order's founder and original seat of its yearly feast

(Photo credits: Le Bien Public)

You can watch a video of the opening of the Mass on a French news channel here.

The Archbishop's homiliy (en français)

The Archduke's speech (en français)