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Historic FAQ - frequently asked questions

Anno 1698

Anno 1780

Anno 2015

It looks at a background which, according to the annals and chronicles of religious orders and state archives, led to the establishment of this order 300 years ago. This information is not only of benefit to the experts but is most certainly also of general interest. Brief answers to the most frequently asked questions are found here behind this "FAQ" menu item you have just clicked on; they whet your appetite without trying to blind you with science.

1) What is the origin of the name of the monastery in which the Piaristenkeller is situated?

The name Piarist comes from the Latin expression
"Ordo Scholarum Piarum" (Order of the Pious Schools)

2) What sort of monastic life does the order lead?

In terms of discipline in monastic life, a middle course between regimented seclusion and the freedom of secular priests was chosen. It was papally approved as a teaching order which practiced the vow to educate poor children.

3) What aims does the monastery pursue and how long have the priests been in existence?

At the end of 1597 when he was just 40 years old, Joseph Calasanz founded the so-called "Pious Schools" as an educational institution for primary education and he established an educational institution in the poor part of Rome for this purpose. His eloquence helped him win the approval of Pope Clement VIII. Fourteen assistants who were all of aristocratic birth and erudite (the last quotation is from the chronicle of the ecclesiastical Rates Provinzial of the Austrian Piarists - head of the order P. Anton Pendler), helped him to succeed in achieving his aim.

4) Who was the founder of the order of the Piarists?

Joseph Calasanz, the founder of the order, was born on 11 September 1556 in Petralta, Aragon, in Northern Spain. He was awarded doctorates in philosophy and law and studied theology, following which he was ordained a priest on 17 December 1583. Subsequently, he became secretary and vicar-general to the bishop in Seu d´Urgell (northern Spain). He gave his inherited aristocratic wealth to the poor and went to Rome on 4 April 1592 as a 35-year-old priest. During the plague-like epidemic that raged in Rome at that time, he ministered day and night to both physical and spiritual needs, particularly in the poor area across the Tiber.
What caused him the greatest distress was the sight of so many poor children idly wandering the streets without any form of descent upbringing supervision, or education.
He discovered his true vocation in Rome, namely training and educating children in piety and science, especially neglected and feral children from the "underprivileged" class (motto of the order), this means - translated into the language of our times - leading a life based on faith and taking responsibility for the world.

5) Where did the order of Piarists originate and how did the teaching order propagate itself?

This was in a parsonage in St Dorothea across the Tiber in Trastevere, the poor area of Rome, where he succeeded in establishing a free school, open to all children free of charge.
This endeavour was supported by his patron and benefactor, the Spanish bishop in Seu d'Urgel with 2,000 scudi annually for the maintenance of able teachers, teaching aids and books.
He was financially assisted in his revolutionary idea of a "primary school for all" by popes Clement IX, Innocent XI, Alexander VIII and Clement XI. The congregation he founded was approved by the Vatican in 1621 and was approved as a religious order by Pope Gregory XV on 31 January 1622 by means of a papal bull. Both biographies of Joseph Calasanz, namely Tossetti and Bonada, communicate that the Grand Duke of Florence, Ferdinand II, the Spanish Kings, Philippe IV and Carl II as well as Vadislav IV, King of Poland and his successor, his brother, Johann Casimir, were extremely keen to establish the Piarist schools in their own countries.
The future King of Poland, Johann Casimir Vadislav, even asked the then Provinzial P.Oniphrius de Conti to accept him into the order, a request that was not approved. The argument was that he could be of more use to the institution when installed in his royal office in the future than as the mentor of poor children.
Johann Casimir Vadislav (grandson of the Swedish king, Sigismund and the first king of Poland from the Vasa dynasty) reigned as king of Poland and successor to his brother until 1668 and succeeded in preserving the reputation of Poland as a major leading Christian nation in Europe. He did involve, however, the kingdom in a series of military conflicts and, at the same time, did nothing to prevent the bloody civil war in neighbouring Ukraine. He also allowed the magnates to consolidate their influence, but the close link to Austria and the order of the Piarists was upheld after his death. The King passed away in 1672.
In 1683, only 11 years later, the Polish King and General, Jan Sobieski, rushed to Vienna in answer to the cry for help from the Habsburg Empire and successfully freed the seat of royal power from the Turkish siege.

6) How long has this monastery been on this square in the Josephstadt and why is this district of Vienna called "Josephstadt?

In 1698, only 6 years after the siege of Vienna by the Turks, the foundation stone of the monastery was laid in this suburb of Vienna by the monarch, His Majesty Emperor Leopold I - on the ground laid to waste by the Turks.
In 1998 this anniversary was celebrated with magnificent tri-centential celebrations and a total refurbishment of the building and basilica.
Just as the "Leopoldine Island" situated to the East of Vienna was named "Leopoldstadt" (in the 17th century as a lasting tribute to Emperor Leopold I, and the parish church there was consecrated to St. Leopold), the suburb named "Josephstadt" was founded in the west of Vienna just after the siege by the Turks, in memory of the coronation of his son, the Roman King Joseph, and was also pronounced St. Joseph (foster father of Jesus Christ) patron saint of the order, the parish church and the new suburb.

7) What do the initials on the coat of arms of the Piarists stand for?

Joseph Calasanz placed his order under the special protection of the Virgin Mary. This is why the first and last letters of the words "Virgin Mary" from the Greek are found in the coat of arms of the order.

8) How old is the Viennese Piarist Grammar School? (by DDr. Harald Uhl)

The school was founded in 1701 in the Josefstadt, where it is still today, by the teaching order of the Piarists, only a few years after their monastery and church (1697/98) in Vienna. The Piarist order is devoted to the education of children from poor families.

They began their Grammar school for Humanities with three German- and two Latin speaking classes with support from the Habsburg emperors. The teaching curricula had to reflect the changing State regulations, and sometimes there was a conflict with the Jesuit grammar school in Vienna (more inclined to the upper classes of the population). The order ran the school until 1860, when the government took over; but the now State-run school was able, because of its high reputation, to continue in the traditional spirit. Over time, lay teachers supplanted the clerical ones, until only the teacher of religion was a clerical one – as is the case today.

The Nazi authorities closed the school down between 1938 – 1945, but soon after Austria‘s liberation in 1945 this very traditional institution was able to open ist portals again. The 250th and the 300th Anniversaries in 1951 and 2001 were marked and celebrated with impressive festivities and publications.

Some Old Boys of the school who came to fame include the poets Anton Wildgans (1881-1932) and Max Mell (1882-1971), the composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (born 1860 in Brno/Moravia, emigrated from Vienna during the Nazi years, died 1957 in Hollywood) or the conductor and opera-director Clemens Krauss (1893-1954).

In 1950, the first woman teacher, Dr. Gertrude Krizek, was taken on; and the first girl-student, Christine Siebenhandl, passed her high school examinations in 1953. Since then, girls and boys learn and study in this traditional institution, still in the humanistic spirit of the foundation, which includes such things as the classical languages of Latin and Greek.

Alumni keep up links with colleagues and friends the world over through an active association – the „Alt-Piaristner“ – a network that nurtures both a regard for tradition and fresh approach to teaching.


To be continued!