In early May 1770, the whole of Schuttern was in a state of excitement: Maria Antonia Josepha Johanna, Archduchess of Austria and just 14 years of age, was on her way from Vienna to Versailles. And she was to spend her last night on German soil at Schuttern Abbey. The next day, she was "handed over" to the French on an island in the River Rhine and went on to marry the heir to the French throne just over a week later. Maria Antonia of Habsburg-Lorraine had become Marie-Antoinette.
Marie-Antoinette's visit coincided with a late flowering of Schuttern Abbey. After the devastation of the Thirty Years' War and Louis the Fourteenth’s military campaigns, a lengthy period of reconstruction had begun in the early 18th century:
From the 1720s, the new West Tower soared over the abbey. Today, it’s the tower of the parish church. Between 1767 and 1773, the nave took on its present late Baroque appearance; the portal in front of the church tower was added, and the gardens and the abbey complex were remodelled as a stately Baroque palace.
So when Marie-Antoinette broke her journey here, she actually spent the night on a vast construction site. As gifts for her hosts, she brought a ring, a cross studded with precious stones, and a letter from her mother, Empress Maria Theresa, which appointed the abbot as Imperial-Royal Privy Councillor.
The abbey still stood to make a loss – because the young royal travelled with no fewer than 257 people, 450 horses and 57 carriages. According to a breakdown by the abbot, Carolus Vogler, the brief stopover by the Archduchess and her entourage cost the tidy sum of 15,086 florins and 50 Kreutzer!
All depictions: © Historischer Verein Schuttern 603 e.V. / Gemeinde Friesenheim