Christoph Anton Migazzi

Christoph Anton Migazzi

Count Christoph Cardinal Anton Migazzi (fully German: Christoph Bartholomäus Anton Migazzi, Graf zu Wall und Sonnenthurm, Italian: Cristoforo Bartolomeo Antonio Migazzi, conte di Waal e Sonnenthurn, October 14, 1714, Trento - April 14, 1803, Vienna) was Prince Archbishop of Vienna.


He was born in 1714, in the county of Tyrol. At nine years of age he entered the school for pages at the residence of Prince Bishop Lamberg at Passau, who later proposed him for admittance to the Collegium Germanicum in Rome. At the age of twenty-two he returned to the Tyrol and devoted himself to the study of civil and canon law.

Cardinal Lamberg took him as conclavist to the conclave of 1740, whence Benedict XIV came forth pope, and to him Cardinal Lamberg earnestly recommended his favourite Migazzi. The latter remained at Rome "in order to quench my thirst for the best science at its very source". By this he meant philosophy as proved by his words spoken about this time: "Without a knowledge of philosophy wit is merely a light fragrance which is soon lost, and erudition a rude formless mass without life or movement, which rolls onward unable to leave any mark of its passage, consuming everything without itself deriving any benefit therefrom." In 1745 he was appointed auditor of the Rota for the German nation.

Owing to the special friendship of Benedict XIV, he was able to conclude several difficult transactions to the entire satisfaction of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa, who in return appointed him in 1751 coadjutor to the aged Archbishop of Mechlin. Thereupon consecrated bishop, he was soon removed to Madrid as ambassador in Spain. A treaty which he concluded pleased the empress so much that she appointed him coadjutor of Count Bishop Althan of Waitzen (1756); but as Althan died before his arrival, and six months later Prince Archbishop Trantson also died in Vienna, the empress named Migazzi his successor.

In 1761 Maria Theresa made him administrator for life of the See of Waitzen, and at the same time obtained the cardinal's purple for him from Clement XIII. Migazzi was thus in possession of two sees, the revenues of which he applied to their improvement. In Waitzen he erected the cathedral and episcopal palace and founded the "Collegium pauperum nobilium" and the convent. Indeed he built almost an entire new quarter in that town; it was therefore, to say the least, hard and mortifying when, after twenty-five years of administration the "Concilium locum tenens regium" asked him if there was any priest in his diocese in possession of two benefices or offices, as in that case it was the emperor Joseph II's pleasure that one of them should be given up. Migazzi was forced to resign from Waitzen.

As Archbishop of Vienna time brought him many sorrows. Pious and devoted to the Church as Maria Theresa undoubtedly was, yet during her reign in Austria the so-called Enlightenment era (Aufklärung) developed inevitably. Its followers imagined to remedy all the evils of the time and promote in every way the prosperity of mankind. The representatives and the literature of the new movement were everywhere in evidence. Its opponents were denounced as stupid obscurantists and simpletons. "The Masonic lodge of the Three Canons" was printed at Vienna in 1742 and at Prague in 1749 that of the "Three Crowned Stars and Honesty". In a memorial to the empress written in 1769 the archbishop designated as the primary causes of current evils the spirit of the times, atheistic literature, the pernicious influence of many professors, the condition of the censorship, contemporary literature, the contempt of the clergy, the bad example of the nobility, the conduct of affairs of state by irreligious persons and neglect of the observance of holy days. Upon each of these disorders he spoke in noble terms of profound truth. The situation was all the more critical for the Catholic Church since while her means of resistance diminished, her enemies gained adherents.

Meanwhile Pope Clement XIV suppressed the Society of Jesus, but Migazzi endeavoured to save it for Austria. He wrote to the empress, "If the members of the order are dispersed, how can their places be so easily supplied? What expense will be entailed and how many years must pass before the settled condition broken up by the departure of these priests can be restored?" Just twenty years later the cardinal wrote to Francis I, "Even the French envoy who was last here, did not hesitate, as I can prove to your Majesty, to say that if the Jesuits had not been suppressed, France would not have experienced that Revolution so terrible in its consequences." The archbishop opposed as far as they were anticlerical the government monopoly of educational matters, the "enlightened" theology, the "purified" law, the "enlightenment" literature, "tolerance" and encroachment on purely religious matters. He also founded the "Priesterseminar", an establishment for the better preparation of young priests for parochial work. At Rome his influential obtained for the Austrian monarch the privilege of being named in the Canon of the Mass. Migazzi lived to see the election of three popes. Maria Theresa and Kaunitz took a lively interest in his accounts of what transpired in the conclave (23 November 1775-16 February 1776) which elected Pope Pius VI, who subsequently visited Vienna during the reign of Joseph II. He owed his election to Migazzi, leader of the Royalist party. How the empress appreciated Migazzi is sufficiently proved in a letter she wrote to him during the conclave, "I am as ill-humoured as though I had been three months in conclave. I pray for you; but I am often amused to see you imprisoned."

When Frederick II of Prussia heard of the death of the empress he wrote, "Maria Theresa is no more. A new order of things will now begin." Joseph II during his ten years' reign published 6200 laws, court ordinances and decrees affecting the Catholic Church. Even what is judicious in them generally bears the stamp of haste. The first measures, levelled against ecclesiastical jurisdiction, created dissatisfaction as encroachments on the rights of the Church. The number of memorials addressed by Cardinal Migazzi to Joseph II and the government was astonishingly large. He opposed all the Josephist reform decrees injurious to the Church. The "simplified and improved studies", the new methods of ecclesiastical education (general seminaries), interference with the constitutions of religious orders, the suppression of convents and violations of her rights and interference with the matrimonial legislation of the Church, called for vigorous protests on the cardinal's part; but though he protested unceasingly, it was of no avail. Matters did not culminate in a rupture with Rome, Pius VI's visit to Vienna made some impression on the emperor and the Holy See pronounced no solemn condemnation of Josephism. On 12 March, 1790, Leopold, Grand Duke of Tuscany, arrived in Vienna, as successor of his brother Joseph, and as early as 21 March, Migazzi presented him with a memorial concerning the sad condition of the Austrian Church. He mentioned thirteen "grievances" and pointed out for each the means of redress: laxity in monastic discipline, the general seminaries, marriage licenses and the "Religious Commission", which assumed the position of judge of the bishops and their rights. Finding his wishes only partly fulfilled, Migazzi repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction.

Emperor Francis II, a Christian whose faith and conscience were sincere, ruled his people with fatherly care. In spite of this he confirmed the Josephist system throughout his reign. For nearly a generation the French wars absorbed his attention, during which time the aforesaid "Religious Commission" paid little heed to the representations of the bishops. The cardinal insisted on its abolition. "I am in all things your Majesty's obedient subject, but in spiritual matters the shepherd must say fearlessly that it is a scandal to all Catholics to see such fetters laid upon the bishops. The scandal is even greater when such power is vested in worldly, questionable, even openly dangerous and disreputable men". Age did not diminish his interest even in matters apparently trivial, nor lessen the virile strength of his speech. "The dismal outlook of the Church in your Majesty's dominion is all the more grievous from the fact that one must stand by in idleness, while he realizes how easily the increasing evils could be remedied, how easily your Majesty's conscience could be calmed, the honour of Almighty God, respect for the Faith and the Church of God be secured, the rightful activities of the priesthood set free, and religion and virtue restored to the Catholic people. All this would follow at once, if only your Majesty, setting aside further indecision, would resolve generously and perseveringly to close once for all the sources of so great evils". The emperor in fact made henceforth greater and more numerous concessions, each of which was greeted by Migazzi with satisfaction. When the pilgrimage to Maria Zell, the most famous shrine in Austria, was once more permitted, the cardinal in person led the first procession.

During his long life Migazzi strove with unceasing activity for the welfare of the Church; and he died full of years and of merits on 14 April, 1803 at Vienna. He lies buried in the church of St. Stephen. According to the French writer, Christian Jacq (O Mistério Mozart, Bertand, Portuguese Edition, 2006, a booklet accompanying the historic novel Mozart, O Supremo Mago), Migazzi was one of Mozart's worst ennemies and a potential suspect, along with Salieri and rival Masons, of his death by poisoning, in 1791.


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