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For more than 600 years, the Hapsburgs held great political power in Europe. When Franz-Josef I, the emperor of Austria, died in 1916, his was the last of the very extravagant imperial funerals. A processional of dignitaries and elegantly dressed members of the imperial court escorted the coffin draped in the black and gold imperial colors. The funeral procession descended the stairs of the Capuchin Monastery in Vienna accompanied by a military band playing somber dirges. At the bottom of the stairs was a large iron door leading to the Hapsburg family tomb. Behind the door was the Cardinal-Archbishop of Vienna.

The officer in charge followed the prescribed ceremony established centuries before. "Open!" he cried out. "Who goes there?" responded the Cardinal. "We bear the remains of his Imperial and Apostolic Majesty, Franz-Josef I, by the grace of God Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Defender of the Faith, Prince of Bohemia-Moravia, Grand Duke of Lombardy, Venezia, Styrgia..." The officer continued to list the Emperor’s thirty-seven titles.

"We know him not," replied the Cardinal. "Who goes there?"

The officer spoke again, this time using a much abbreviated and less ostentatious title reserved for times of expediency. "We know him not," the Cardinal said again. "Who goes there?"

The officer tried a third time stripping the emperor of all but the humblest of titles, "We bear the body of Franz-Josef our brother, a sinner like us all!" At that the doors swung open and Franz-Josef was admitted.

(From a sermon by Scott Chambers, "Jesus: Back Home In Nazareth" 6/29/2009)

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