Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Tree of Lamentation

It was in the middle of 13th century when a terrible disease broke out in Vienna.
It spread around rapidly and disfigured people in a horrible way. No one knew a remedy for the plague and so people who were infected were brought to a hospice outside the town.

This infirmary was located near to a chapel dedicated “To the good Saint Job”; next to the small church stood a beautiful big linden tree. This place was haunted by the so called “lament”; a restless spirit who sang their songs of lamentation out of the treetop at night.

These laments sounded so eerie that people were afraid to be in this area in the dark and the patients of the hospice complained about nocturnal sleep disturbance. Finally the people of the neighbourhood asked the hospice’s priest to relieve them from the terrifying lament with prayers and invocations.

In the following night the priest took crucifix and holy water and went to the mysterious tree accompanied by a group of people. As they came closer they clearly heard the wailing tones. No doubt – a haunted soul held here their gruesome complaints.
The clergy’s companions halted. Only the priest proceeded to the spooky tree.
Louder and louder sounded the plaintive - eerie alien and yet human.

A ray of moonlight pierced the clouds and threw its light on a shadowy figure. Immediately the priest picked up his crucifix, sprinkled holy water and with trembling voice he recited his incantations.
And lo and behold the plaintive tones they had heard previously stopped instantly.
Instead the concerned bystanders saw that the eerie dark figure seemed to take the priest and disappeared with him behind the chapel.

Vienna c.1490
The companions waited for the return of the clergy. But after a while they went home depressed and convinced that the ghost had taken their priest.

The next day a smiling priest was back.
He told the concerned that the odd sounds hadn’t come from any kind of ghost. A singing knight whose name he had promised not to tell had performed his lamentations about the prevalent disease. The lonely linden tree so the knight thought was the perfect place to express his pain.

But although the laments weren’t heard anymore the people didn’t believe the priest’s words; they thought he had allied with the ghost and had persuaded the restless soul to move to another place.

Since that incident the hospice was known as “To the Tree of Lamentation” (in German “Zum Klagbaum”). The name remained until the institution was closed.

Still today an alley of Vienna’s 4th district is named Klagbaumgasse which reminds of the eerie melodies of the lamenting tree.

Copyright © 2012 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to the Flash Pulp Crew for including this legend in their 'FlashCast 52 - Zombie Pie' !