The residence of the Order of St. George is located in the convent of the Salesian Sisters in 1030 Vienna, Rennweg 10. Below are a few details about this location.
In a central location in Vienna, on one of the city’s largest traffic arteries, the Rennweg, and yet shielded from noise and stress, in the middle of a green space between the Belvedere and the Botanical Garden, lies the convent of the Salesian Sisters. It is not only religious women who live, pray and work here – there is also the opportunity for other women to live with the sisters.
The convent is a large baroque building with beautiful vaults, long corridors and high windows. The courtyard is enclosed by the cloister. From here one can access the most important rooms of the convent, such as the sisters’ choir, the refectory and also the parish room. Empress Wilhelmine Amalia, the widow of Joseph I, had it built for the sisters from her own funds.
The Salesian Convent in Vienna belongs to the order of the “Visitation of Mary”, founded by St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva, and St. Johanna Franziska von Chantal on 6 June 1610 in Annecy, in what is now France.
The order’s convents are all autonomous and report directly to the Apostolic See. They are grouped into federations to support each other. The German-speaking convents all used to run schools and boarding schools.
Since 2019, the Salesian convent has been part of the Via Habsburg, a “Cultural Route of the Council of Europe” certified since 2014, which connects individual, historical sites that are closely related to the House of Habsburg.
The convent church
In the centre of the convent complex is the church, an elongated oval central building with a high dome that can be seen from afar. In addition to the ceiling painting “Assumption of the Virgin Mary” by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, there is also a relic of the Blessed Emperor Karl I in the monastery church.. The organ of the Salesian Sisters’ Church was built in 1890 by the organ builder Johann M. Kauffmann.
Empress Wilhelmine Amalia was the widow of Emperor Joseph I, who died of smallpox at the age of 33. She was a pious woman who loved seclusion. The early death of the Emperor and the plague that struck Vienna shortly afterwards, claiming thousands of victims, may have awakened in her the thought of secluding herself to a convent. First, however, after the death of the emperor she had to devote herself to the education of her two daughters and the question of their succession to the throne, and was therefore still heavily involved in the political agendas of the ruling house.
When the question of entering a convent became more topical for her, she realised that none of the existing convents in Vienna would be suitable for her and so the plan matured to found a convent herself, where she could also spend her old age. At the same time, this convent was also to serve other purposes; she had in mind young girls from the impoverished aristocracy or the upper middle classes, for whom there was no adequate educational institution in Vienna at the time; a school and boarding school were to be set up for them. In addition, the religious life of Vienna was to be enriched with this convent.
Empress Amalia now turned to the Archbishop of Mechelen with a request for Visitation Sisters; she had a long-standing acquaintance with them and considered them suitable to carry out her convent plans. On 13 May 1717 the foundation stone of the convent was laid. Exactly two years after the laying of the foundation stone, on 13 May 1719, the consecration of the church and the taking possession of the house by the first nuns took place with the solemn participation of the Empress, her daughters and the court.
In the same year, the first Austrian woman made her profession in the new church. Five years later the number of sisters had already doubled. The Empress had a warm relationship with the sisters and also personally looked after the welfare of the “pupils”. After her daughters were married within their social class, the empress retired to the wing of the convent built for her. However, she reserved the right to leave the convent in between, as she continued to take part in the lives of her daughters and grandchildren.
On 10 April 1742, the Empress died in her beloved convent on Rennweg. In her will she had wished to be allowed to wear the religious habit of the Salesian Sisters on her deathbed. She was buried in the crypt of the convent in the midst of the sisters.
The premises of the Order of St. George
Our premises are located directly next to the convent church on the 1st floor. The sanctuary, which is used as a chapter room for meetings and lectures, plays a central role. For subsequent discussions and talks, the adjoining club room is available, which invites the Dames and Knights of the Order to linger with its cosy seating facilities. Thankfully, the rooms of the neighbouring University of Music and Performing Arts can also be used occasionally for performances, such as the benefit concert of the Dames of the Order of St. George. Furthermore, especially in the summer months, some events are held in the former priest’s garden of the convent.