Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Biography - Archduchess Magdalena of Austria 1532-1590 challenges the all-male rule of the Jesuits

Archduchess Magdalena of Austria (1532-1590) by Giuseppe Arcimboldi 1563

Archduchess Magdalena of Austria (1532-1590) was one of the daughters of the Roman-German King & later Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I, & his wife Anna (Jagiello) of Bohemia & Hungary. Choosing to “serve God” early on, Magdalena founded the religious community of Hall in the Tyrol with the help of her sisters, Margarethe & Helena. She was opposed in forming the community by men, some of her brothers & the Jesuits, who were supposed to have total control of women in religious matters. The Jesuits, fearing the possibility of a female section of their order, viewed her as a threat. She overcame their fear & obstinance by enlisting the help of her brother, Emperor Maximilian II; by using the uncertainty of the Reformation movement & political tensions to her advantage; & by promising to place the female-run religious community into the hands of the Jesuits after her death.

Archduchess Magdalena of Austria (1532-1590) by Jakob Seisenegger

She could challenge the Jesuits, because she collaborated with the Pope to contain the Reformation movement in her region.  Magdalena encouraged her community to remain Catholic by repeatedly asking for papal visitations. Magdalena's will ensured the continuation of her religious community against the Jesuit's wishes. After her death, Petrus Canisius claimed that her "virtue" was the only reason the Counter Reformation was successful in the Tyrol. Even though Magdalena changed her will, the Jesuits became the most active supporters for her beatification process. Magdalena served her God on her own terms, acting with extensive freedom of action by cleverly manipulating her noble connections & power & wealth.