Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Cock of Saint Stephen's Cathedral

At the end of the 15th century a brave and smart knight lived in Vienna. His name was Kaspar von Schlezer and he had a confidential position at the court of Emperor Maximilian I.. Kaspar was married to a very beautiful and warm hearted woman. The couple was well known for their extraordinary happiness.

One day Emperor Maximilian I. told his loyal knight to travel to Constantinople to bring the Sultan an important message.

Kaspar was worried that he was just chosen to make the dangerous travel that someone else could get his wife. Kaspar’s wife was afraid that she could lose her beloved husband on that long and dangerous travel.

But however – he had to go.

The day came when they had to say Goodbye to each other. The wife placed a silver crucifix around Kaspar’s neck. The consecrated cross should protect her beloved husband from need and danger.

After a long journey Kaspar arrived at the Sultan’s residence and handed over the important dispatch.

The brave knight was already on his way back home when he was attacked by bandits. He was captured and sold as a slave.

Many years of hard work followed for the nobleman. Only the silver crucifix which he could hide from the robbers gave him hope that he would regain his freedom one day.

Year after year went by. At home the wife mourned for the lost one. After five years she gave in the pressure of society, gave up her hope of the reunion and decided to become engaged to her husband’s friend.

When they began to prepare the wedding, Kaspar had a very strange dream: He saw his wife standing at the altar of St. Stephen’s where she just got married to his friend Knight von Merkenstein. At the end of his nightmare a soft voice whispered, “There is still time to prevent this marriage.”

Bathed in sweat Kaspar awoke. In his despair he cried out, “I must be in Vienna tomorrow. I would give my soul to the devil if this were the only way to make this possible.”

In that moment the devil himself stood in front of him. And - he had a cock with him. “This fowl will take us to Vienna, but I want your soul for that.”

The desperate man agreed under the condition that he wouldn’t awake during the entire flight; otherwise Satan shouldn’t get power over his soul. The devil nodded with a satanic grin.

Then both devil and knight sat on the back of the cock. Secretly the nobleman touched the silver crucifix on his chest and gave his life in God’s hands. Then he fell asleep.

The cock took off and raced with its heavy load to the west.

As morning dawned St. Stephen’s was already in sight. Full of joy the cock followed its nature and let out a loud “doodle-doo”. But – the crowing of the cock wakened Kaspar.

So the devil had lost Kaspar’s soul. Loudly cursing the bogey threw the knight and the cock into the Danube. Then the bad guy went furiously down to hell.

Fishermen pulled the two out of the river and so Kaspar von Schlezer could arrive at St. Stephen’s in time. Happily he hugged his wife.

In gratitude to the cock which freed him from slavery and brought him back to Vienna in time Kaspar von Schlezer let make an iron cock for the roof of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The cock is still there. Not only as a reminder of the devil ride in medieval times; it also serves as protection from the devil, who can carry out his misdeeds only till the cock’s crow at dawn.

Copyright © 2012 Ingrid Prohaska