Hotel Regina in Vienna provides a beautiful breakfast spread. After filling up, we loaded the bus to Geras where we were treated to a tour and lunch with Abbot Michael and Father Andreas.
In 1153, just after the death of St. Norbert, the monastery at Geras was founded as a daughter house of Seelau Abbey. It has survived Joseph II (see Day 3-4 post for more info on him), accidental fires, and complete destruction during the Thirty Years’ War when Bohemian troops came from the north and destroyed the entire Geras village. Only a few confers remained, but it was the will of the order and the infamous Habspurgs (who were Catholic and wanted more monasteries) to rebuild. All these changes over the course of centuries resulted in architectural styles representing Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque periods. Interestingly, because money was tight, they used an artificial marble throughout some of the main rooms. More details about the buildings and architecture are available in captions of the photo gallery.
Geras Abbey is unique in that it was named a papal basilica in 1953. It serves dozens of regional parishes, though none of them have populations over 1,000. This is a big challenge for the order, since they are financially responsible for the parishes. Like some of their counterparts in the U.S., Geras will need to combine parishes to survive.
Geras is unique in yet another way. According to Abbot Michael, it has been the desire of several popes, as well as various Roman congregations and other Church organizations, that monasteries in the West become more active and interested in Eastern Christian spirituality and liturgy. After receiving special permission from the pope, Geras constructed a Byzantine chapel above the summer sacristy.
After a delicious lunch with our new Norbertine friends, we completed our tour and napped on the way back to Vienna. Our group was free to plan our own evening, so John, Jenny, Jaime and I wandered the neighborhood.
We (somewhat accidentally, somewhat purposely) Uber-ed our way to dinner at Rollercoaster Restaurant inside Vienna’s version of Six Flags amusement park. Talk about a culture shift from this morning! Our drinks were made by a robot and delivered to our table on rollercoaster tracks (click for the video!) with music pumping and lights flashing. Next, we explored the amusement park. Jaime and I embraced the tourist trap and paid 5 Euros each to ride their 90-meter freefall tower. I’m proud to say we made it out alive and with dry pants. Success!