Zagreb under the sign of Habsburg
The fact that the Order of St George - a European order of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine - held its Order Day in Zagreb almost exactly one hundred years to the day after the end of constitutional relations between Croatia and the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy enormously strengthened the symbolic power of the event. In a completely different way from what could have been expected in 1918, today's Croatia feels more deeply connected than ever to the monarchy and the House of Habsburg. This was also noticeable on that Day of the Order at the end of October. Habsburg is not yesterday. In Croatia Habsburg is present and future.
How closely one feels connected to the former ruling family already became apparent on the day before the Day of the Order (26 October). It was not without reason that the meeting of the Council of the Order took place in the Museum Mimara of all places. It was precisely here that HIRH Archduke Karl of Habsburg-Lothringen, the Grand Master of the Order, set up his office during the Yugoslavian wars. His merits for the recognition of the state of Croatia at that time have not been forgotten.
In the morning hours of the following day (27 October) it was then time: 300 ladies and knights of the order gathered for the line-up on St. Mark's Square, i.e. directly in front of the seat of the Croatian state government and in front of the Romanesque St. Mark's Church, one of the oldest architectural monuments of the city, which in the time of the monarchy was redesigned in neo-Gothic style. After the Emperor's hymn was heard and the Grand Master was informed, the assembled members of the Order moved in a formation towards the University Church of St. Catherine, where the festive Mass and the subsequent investiture took place. The celebrant was the Rector of Zagreb Cathedral, Msgr Josip Kuhtić. The University Church was selected for the celebratory Mass on the proposal of Cardinal Josip Bozanić, Archbishop of Zagreb. During the Turkish sieges the church was destroyed twice and rebuilt in 1632 with the donations of the Croatian nobility as the most beautiful sacral baroque building of the city. The Mass was accompanied by liturgical singing in Croatian, Latin and Old Slavic. Around 60 postulants and 5 Dames were accepted into the order at the investiture. The Order now has almost 700 members.
After a cosy lunch in the restaurant Johann Franck, to which also the Croatian president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović came, the Day of the Order ended - like every time - in a Gala Dinner in the evening, which took place this time in the Emerald Hall of the Hotel Westin. Besides the Government of the Order - above all the Grand Master SKKH Karl von Habsburg, Procurator Baron Vinzenz von Stimpfl-Abele and Chancellor Stefan Schermaier - an emissary of the Croatian President, Mate Granić, as well as the Deputy Minister of Defence, Petar Mihatov, were present at the gala dinner.
On this occasion, the knights of the Croatian Commanderies presented their Grand Master with a very special gift: Knowing the Archduke's preference for documents from the monarchy period, they had a reprint of the coronation diploma of the Blessed Emperor Charles of Austria made in the Croatian State Archives, which they now presented to Archduke Charles. But even the Grand Master did not arrive empty-handed. In return, he gave the two Croatian commanders the coat of arms of the dynasty and the personal coat of arms of Emperor Franz Joseph I and Emperor Charles IV, made by a Knight of the Order. Another Knight of the Order presented the Grand Master with a stamp collection dedicated to the 150th anniversary of the naval battle of Lissa. The celebration lasted until late into the night.
This grand meeting of the Order didn’t go unnoticed by the Croatian public. All media, from radio and television to the most important daily newspapers, dedicated detailed reports to the Day of the Order.
It was a really successful day for the Order and Emperor Franz Joseph I would have said: "It was very beautiful, I was very pleased”.