Maria Saal is considered the cradle of Carinthia. The area in and around the market town had its origins with the Celts, but the area gained fame through the Romans. The cathedral in Maria Saal is the historical and ecclesiastical center in Carinthia. The pilgrimage and collegiate church of Maria, along with Karnburg, is one of the earliest church foundations in Carinthia. As early as 767, St. Mary’s Church was consecrated by Bishop Modestus. In 1116, the provost’s office built by Salzburg’s Archbishop Konrad in Maria Saal was first mentioned in a document, which underlined the importance of the church’s position in Maria Saal.
MARIA ROOM. The time from Ash Wednesday to Easter is the time of fasting, but also the time of repentance and reflection. The faithful are invited to reconsider the basics of Christian existence. More and more people are looking for a place of deepening and reflection, where they can draw strength for the challenges in daily life. Such a place is offered for the second time this year in the Dom Maria Saal. A spiritual art installation was created here with the “Path of Reconciliation”.
But how did this art installation come about and what is behind it? “The background was that the confessional behavior of the faithful changed,” explains Deacon Gottfried Riepl. “This topic was dealt with intensively in many long rounds of talks and discussions under the leadership of Cathedral Pastor Josef-Klaus Donko. We also found that many people have forgotten how to talk, to forgive and to come to terms with others and especially with themselves. That was the one realization. The other was that the faithful in their own parish hardly ever go to confession. It is used intensively on pilgrimages, but unfortunately not at home. ”
Bring the use of the path closer
In addition to his work as a voluntary permanent deacon, Gottfried Riepl is also firmly rooted in the economy. He is the founder and senior boss of the Klagenfurt “joinery with format”. The master carpenter caused a sensation not only with his tailor-made furniture, but also with collaborations with well-known artists such as Herman Nitsch and Christian Attersee. It was precisely these experiences from his professional life that made the implementation of the project much easier. “One of the central questions was how one can bring a – let’s call him – liturgical person closer to handling or using the path.”
A few years ago, the “Kubus” project was implemented in a group of carpenters founded by Riepl, “The decisive craft”. Each of the cubes, designed together with well-known Carinthian artists, was given a very clear statement at the time. This approach was also incorporated into the implementation of the “path of enlightenment”. They finally agreed on the content: envy and greed, argument and resentment, being irreconcilable with me, with you and “I am not guilty” are the four attitudes or characteristics that are expressed with the brightly lit cubes should.
Mirror of self-knowledge
In the next section you step in front of a mirror with the word “self-knowledge” written on it in large letters. This mirror should lead to insight and open a way of reconciliation. “People have forgotten how to forgive and that, although there is a great longing for harmony in everyone”, explains Deacon Gottfried Riepl, “For people,“ active ”, inner forgiveness, is very important. You hand in a backpack, you can feel the relief. Many people spend most of their lives feeling “I am right” and do not notice how they poison themselves and those around them through this constant insistence on their rights. “Do you want to be right or be reconciled?” That is the crucial question. “
At the end of the path there is a light bench with five vessels with candles that show which first step towards reconciliation one can perhaps take. This area is deliberately kept in warm colors. Here the believer has the opportunity to light a candle and symbolically complete the “path of reconciliation”.
Of course, this does not affect the reconciliation services, which take place regularly as before. In these church services, the parish provides impulses for reflection that are supposed to help the faithful. After the confession of guilt, the priest says the forgiveness prayer and there is also a kind of ritual, a symbolic act. “Incense is put into a vessel and this is then lit. The dissolving smoke also symbolizes the dissolving of guilt, ”says Deacon Riepl.
Project “Commissioned Parish Coordinators”
In general, the cathedral parish always endeavors to strike new paths and to take on the pioneering role in church issues. A particularly interesting project called “Commissioned Parish Coordinators” also began in Maria Saal. The aim of this pilot project is to involve many more lay people in church work. “Pastor Josef-Klaus Donko did about half a year of preparatory work here,” Diakon Riepl reports. “We received the episcopal commission at the beginning of November last year. The project will continue until 2022 and will be completed before the next parish council elections. ”If the project is successfully completed, this would mean enormous relief for the individual pastors. In this way they would again be freed up to a greater extent for pastoral activities.
Technically on the cutting edge
The Maria Saal parish also has its finger on the pulse of technology. Due to the corona, the trade fairs are streamed live and can also be accessed retrospectively on the homepage. There are short videos on all important and relevant topics or they are being created successively. “We want to maintain this for the most part in the post-Corona period. We currently have between 200 and 300 believers following the masses online. The response has been very high and we receive great feedback on an ongoing basis. “
Cultural stronghold of Maria Saal
When it comes to culture, too, the Maria Saal parish is right at the forefront. The cathedral parish has been the scene of attention-grabbing cultural events for many years. The parish repeatedly succeeds in attracting luminaries from the fields of art and culture to Maria Saal. One of these events in 2017 was the erection of the Way of the Cross by the artist Karl Vouk around the church building. It combines tradition and modernity in a contemporary concept. A special feature of this way of the cross is that the individual stations of the cross are movable and could therefore also be set up in other places. As a further specialty, the classic fourteen stations in this Way of the Cross have been expanded to include a fifteenth station, which symbolizes the resurrection of Christ. Deacon Gottfried Riepl: “It was our endeavor, in the tradition of the cathedral, in which works of art from the 2nd to the 20th century can be found, to create an important work of art in the 21st century. Unfortunately, at the moment it is not being noticed to the extent that it deserves it. The Styrian composer Albert Seidl is working with the support of Ingrid Klogger on the setting of the individual Stations of the Cross, which will be performed as a complete work as part of the 950th anniversary of the Gurk diocese in 2022 as “Maria Saal Passion” Deacon Riepl would like to get rid of a misinterpretation or a misunderstanding: “A way of the cross is always associated with suffering, blood and pain. But that is not a way of the cross, because hope and resurrection are always to be found in a way of the cross. You have to see it that way. That is why we presented the fifteenth station, the resurrection, in Maria Saal. “
As unusual as the Maria Saal and cathedral is, the story of Gottfried Riepl’s career, from a man in the economy and father of a family to the ordained deacon of the parish, is just as unusual. Gottfried Riepl comes from a very religious family. From childhood he was closely associated with the church and the parish. This solidarity expressed itself through great commitment in the parish and in the parish council. “Since my youth I have had the desire to be there for the Church even more, and on a different level. In my function as parish councilor of St. Thomas I met Father Cornelius Dings in 1989. I was able to experience 14 great journeys with him. It was he who took the “Karawankenblick” away from me and made me culturally the one who saw. When Father Cornelius died in 2010, I decided to begin my deacon training at his grave. In 2014 I finally received my consecration. “