The first stone of the foundation of the Austrian Hospice of the Holy Family in Jerusalem was laid on New Year’s Eve 1856. Today, the pilgrim’s house has reason again to celebrate. With Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, the hospice has found its strongest supporter since the end of the Habsburg dynasty in 1918.
In 2018, one century after the collapse of the Habsburg dynasty, Kurz and Vienna Archbishop Christoph Schönborn have again joined forces to revive its legacy. One small part of this legacy is a seemingly insignificant hospice in Jerusalem that lost its historic importance after the end of World War i. In 2018, the Austrian government and the Catholic Church together invested $3 million in its restoration.
By itself, this is of little-to-no significance compared to the earthshaking events that happen almost every day.
But because of its history, the restoration of the Austrian Hospice is far more significant than offering improved accommodations for travelers. The hospice has been a key part of the Vatican’s involvement in the Holy Land. Its restoration symbolizes the revival of relations between Austria and the Vatican—and their ambitions in Israel.
Through the centuries, the Holy Roman Empire has claimed rulership of Jerusalem. But in only very few cases did it ever actually rule the city and then only in a limited way. The empire’s claim over the city caused some of the world’s most bloody conflicts and is prophesied to be the center of yet another world war.
The Holy Roman Empire’s last attempt to gain control of Jerusalem failed in the 14th century. While later emperors of the Habsburg dynasty claimed to be the true “king of Jerusalem,” they themselves have never even set foot on its soil and neither had many of their subjects. But this changed with the establishment of the Austrian Hospice in the 18th century.
The hospice opened the way for Catholic monarchs to enter Jerusalem. In addition, it proved crucial in housing hundreds of thousands of pilgrims over the years.
While the hospice remains as nothing more than a temporary stay for pilgrims, it speaks volumes for Europe’s desire to rule Jerusalem. Schönborn and Kurz understand the hospice’s religious and historic significance and seek to strengthen it.
Restoring the ‘Flagship of Christian Austria in the Holy Land’
After the building’s outer wall was damaged in 2003, besides the repair work the hospice’s management decided to build an extension that adds 12 more guest rooms to the existing 32, as well as a storage room, a shelter, a laundry, a workshop and an archive to house the memorabilia and documents of the hospice’s 163-year history.
The repair and construction work began in 2016. The hospice raised funds of over $918,000 and the dioceses of the Catholic Church in Austria contributed over $1.5 million for the project. Upon Schönborn’s request, Austria’s states and government donated more than $1.5 million in March 2018.
Schönborn said in 2017 that the pilgrims’ hospice is “the most important institution of the Catholic Church in Austria for local pilgrims in the Holy Land.” Schönborn is the designated protector of the hospice. Its accommodations serve approximately 80,000 guests per year. Until 1918, it also served as the residence of the Austrian consul. It is “an open house for all pilgrims,” especially from the area of the former Habsburg monarchy, Schönborn said.
Schönborn said that Austria’s financial support would “secure a piece of Austria in the Holy Land” and contribute to a positive “relationship between Jews, Muslims and Christians” in Jerusalem. Consequently, an unprecedented number of visitors came to the hospice during the 2018 holiday season.
Kurz said in March 2018: “For more than 150 years, the Jerusalem Hospice has been an important representation for our country in the Middle East.” The hospice serves as “host and bridge builder at the same time,” as well as the “flagship of Christian Austria in the Holy Land,” he said. “We would like to further strengthen its important role and therefore support the work of the Austrian Catholic Church in Jerusalem.”
Kurz visited the Austrian Hospice during his visit to Jerusalem in June 2018.
Reestablishing the Patriarchal Seat in Jerusalem
The cooperation between Vienna’s archbishop and Austria’s ruler is not without historic precedent. It was this exact cooperation that led to the creation of the hospice in the first place.
In the 19th century, Archbishop Joseph Othmar von Rauscher and the Habsburg dynasty, which ruled the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the time, joined forces to create the temporary dwelling place for pilgrims. The property for the Austrian Hospice was acquired in 1855 after a visit by Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian, the younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph. The hospice was then built at Rauscher’s direction, who referred to it as a “home away from home.”
The Legation Secretary of the Austrian Representative Office to the Sublime Port, Franz Ritter von Reyer, wrote at the time to Vienna:
It won’t just be the most beautiful hospice, but the most solid building far and wide in the Orient, worthy of the powerful Catholic state that commissioned it.
The Catholic Church and the Habsburg dynasty didn’t just want a pilgrim house, they wanted a visible presence in the Holy Land. The Catholic Church in Austria and Sebastian Kurz now seek to expand that presence.
But Europe’s history in the Holy Land goes further back than that. At the time, Rauscher and the Habsburg monarchy sought to revive the centuries-old roots of the Holy Roman Empire in the region. Concerning this history, the official website of the hospice states:
In 1847, it fell to Pope Pius ix to reestablish the patriarchal seat in Jerusalem, which had been abandoned since the late 14th century. The fact that the seat was under exclusive control of the French Protectorate led the Austrian monarchy to consider establishing a visible presence of its own in Jerusalem.
The pope wanted to reestablish the seat of the Holy Roman Empire in Jerusalem, which was previously established by crusaders in the 11th and 13th centuries. The hospice is one of the Holy Roman Empire’s few marks on the city and is deeply significant for the Catholic Church today. But the church’s ambitions are far more momentous.
Claiming the Title King of Jerusalem
In the First Crusade in 1095–1099, the Franks seized control of Jerusalem from the Ottoman Turks and established the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Less than a century later, in 1187, the Muslims regained control of Jerusalem until the time of the sixth crusade in 1228. Through a treaty with the Ottomans, Frederick Barbarossa (Frederick ii), emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation regained control of Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem, and crowned himself king of Jerusalem.
But the Holy Roman Empire’s control of Jerusalem was again short-lived. It totally vanished in the 14th century. The Habsburg monarchs, like prior emperors, however, continued to claim the title “King of Jerusalem.” The website The World of the Habsburgs, sponsored by the Austrian government, comments:
The title “King of Jerusalem” might seem rather strange. Already used by Charles v in 1520, it lent a religious dimension to the titles which otherwise related to regions and properties. In fact, the designation “King of Jerusalem” can be traced back to the Crusades (11th to 13th centuries), but the issue of its claim is confusing. Opaque inheritance and marriage policies justified the use of this disputed title at least for the Holy Roman emperors.
More than anything else, the title “King of Jerusalem” is an atrocious claim by the Holy Roman Empire to rule Jerusalem. But neither the Habsburg dynasty nor the Holy Roman Empire has ever been able to gain its desired full control of the Holy Land. Thus, its quest has continued through the centuries.
The hospice in Jerusalem gave the monarchs of the Habsburg Empire a piece of real estate in Jerusalem, in addition to its intangible claim to be the true rulers of Jerusalem. While the hospice is really nothing more than a place for pilgrims, it symbolizes the Catholic Church’s desire for a visible presence in the region. The hospice website recounts:
The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 presented Emperor Franz Joseph, whose title encompassed that of king of Jerusalem too, with the welcome opportunity of visiting Jerusalem’s holy sites and making an impressive entrance in the Holy Land on behalf of the Habsburg monarchy. He was the first crowned head of a Catholic country to come to Jerusalem since the Crusades. Not only did the emperor reside in the hospice, but he intentionally gave his multifaceted stay in Bethlehem and Jerusalem the character of a pilgrimage. From that time onwards, the religious character of pilrimage to the Holy Land was bound up with a sense of patriotism.
Until 1918, the hospice was the center of the Austrian presence in the Orient. But after the collapse of the Habsburg dynasty at the end of World War i, Austria’s presence in the Holy Land diminished. Since then, the hospice has seen various owners and purposes, including that of a military hospital. While the Catholic Church of Austria regained ownership of the hospice in 1985, it wasn’t until the administration of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in 2018 that the hospice also regained its political significance.
The Holy Roman Empire’s ambitions for Jerusalem have always been dimmed by reality. The Bible, however, prophesies that Catholic Europe’s strongest quest for Jerusalem is yet ahead and in our imminent future. What Kurz currently does in Austria is a mere foreshadow of Europe’s future policy. The Bible prophesies that 10 kings, sharing the same mind, will rise in the heart of Europe soon, and they will do on a large scale what Kurz is doing today in a small way.
Many conservatives in the Catholic Church who seek to revive the Holy Roman Empire celebrate Sebastian Kurz for what he has done. But it will take more than a leader in Austria supporting a hospice in Jerusalem to satisfy their desire to rule Jerusalem.
Germany’s influential former defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, said in an interview with the Austrian daily newspaper Kurier: “I would like to see some other European heads of government take a close look at how things are currently managed in Austria.” In an interview with regional weekly newspaper of Lower Austria NÖN, he said: “I would like to see other European leaders take [Kurz] as an example.” Would Guttenberg also like to see all of Europe become more involved in Jerusalem? Not only do Guttenberg’s statements indicate this, but his actions do as well.
Watch our sister publication’s Key of David program below by Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry to learn more about Guttenberg’s deeply prophetic statement.
Baron Guttenberg is a descendant of the Habsburg dynasty and thus a dual citizen of Austria.
The Bible prophesies that in this end time, 10 kings will rise to resurrect the gory deeds of the Holy Roman Empire (Daniel 2). We at Watch Jerusalem believe that Guttenberg will lead all of Europe to do what Kurz is doing today. Mr. Flurry comments in the program:
When you think about 10 kings or 10 nations that are going to come together and form the Holy Roman Empire, and now we already see one in Austria that has formed the Holy Roman Empire in its nation, the rule of the Holy Roman Empire. And here’s another man coming along and saying, Well, we need to expand that! I’m telling you that this is the beginning, almost, you could say, the official beginning of the Holy Roman Empire, that dreadful empire that’s going to be a part of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord. So says your Bible, and so says many prophecies.
Now, is Mr. Guttenberg giving us a sign or a signal where Europe is headed? Well, that is a resounding “Yes!” Yes, he is!
Mr. Flurry adds that we are witnessing a “terrible turning point in Europe.” And though we are only seeing the beginning of the resurrection of this old empire, history and prophecy tell us that things will get far worse.
The Holy Roman Empire has always sought to dominate Jerusalem. While some attempts were peaceful, others used brutal force. In times past, even the seemingly most peaceful pilgrim hospices have turned into military bases for crusaders. In essence, a crusade is nothing more than an armed pilgrimage legitimized by the Catholic Church.
Like Kurz, Guttenberg is keenly interested in what is happening in Israel and especially in Jerusalem. He believes that Europe is doing too little in the region. For that reason, Guttenberg cofounded the Friends of Israel Initiative. The initiative’s website states that its founders are most concerned “about the onslaught of radical Islamism as well as the specter of a nuclear Iran, both of which threaten the entire world.” For years, Guttenberg has called on Europe to stop radical Islam led by Iran.
Iran is leading an Islamic power bloc that, among other things, threatens Jerusalem. Bible prophecy clearly foretells that a strongman in Europe will rise to lead Europe’s military to confront radical Islam and Iran (Daniel 11:40). Request a free copy of The King of the South, by Mr. Flurry, for a detailed overview of this prophesied clash.
Afterward, Europe’s strongman will set his sights on Jerusalem.
Europe’s armed forces will be invited to “enter also into the glorious land” as a peacekeeping force (verse 41). Verse 45 shows that through his deeds, the Vatican will then set up its headquarters in Jerusalem: “And he shall plant the tabernacles of his palace between the seas in the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
Beginning with Kurz, endorsed by Guttenberg, we are seeing the early stages of the fulfillment of this prophecy. But notice where it leads: “he shall come to his end, and none shall help him.”
The Coming of the Real King of Jerusalem
Whoever assumes the rulership of the Holy Roman Empire will again claim the title “King of Jerusalem.” This time, Europe will seek to ensure its right to the city with overwhelming military force. But its military might will be broken by a far superior power. The Messiah, the real King of Jerusalem, is about to come to put an end to the “Holy” Roman Empire.
There is much more you need to learn about Europe’s centuries-long quest to rule Jerusalem. The world is heading toward the worst religious war it has ever seen, but beyond that lies the greatest hope it could ever know. This hope has to do with God’s chosen city, Jerusalem. Request your free copy of Jerusalem in Prophecy, by Gerald Flurry, for more inspiring insight into what God has planned for that glorious city.