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


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' !

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Devil in the Mirror

In 1510 a pretty young lady lived in Vienna. Her name was Clara. She led a free and unbridled life. For hours she made up her face and couldn’t stop admiring herself in the mirror.

One day the girl became very sick and when she felt that bad that she was close to die she promised in her prayers to change her dissolute life if only she would recover.
The prayers helped and after a short time she was completely healthy again.

But the good resolutions were forgotten quickly and soon she was back in front of her mirror and looked at herself full of pride. She powdered her face white, dyed her eyebrows to black and painted her mouth red.

One day engrossed in painting her face Clara heard a soft crackling of glass. She held her ear close to the mirror surface. Clearly she could hear a faint crackling. She looked for cracks in the glass but – what she saw now scared her a lot - she noticed that her face was no longer visible.

The surface was completely empty.
Surprised she wiped her hand over the mirror. Suddenly she felt held by an overpowering force detaining her. At the same moment a distorted sardonic grinning devil’s face stared at Clara out of her mirror.

Anxiously and desperately she cried, “I will not be vain anymore and I promise to live modestly and piously!”

But it was too late for promises. The devil jumped out of the mirror, grabbed Clara by her hair, turned her head around till her face was black as coal and took her down to hell.

Copyright © 2012 Ingrid Prohaska

Special thanks to the Flash Pulp Crew for including this legend in their 'FlashCast 51 - Short People' !