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Burial Plots

5:50 PM, Mar 19, 2012 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Vienna
As much as the Viennese enjoy life, they also embrace death. Today I dropped by the Kaisergruft, where most of the Hapsburg monarchs and heirs have been laid to rest—including Crown Prince Otto, who died last summer. As seen in this photo, these sarcophagi are impressive and mindful of morbidity. (Notice how the skull is missing teeth.)

Vienna

Empress Maria Theresa is here, in a tomb larger than my garage. Maximilian lies here as well, his body sent over from Mexico after his execution (the Mexicans didn't seem to care for an Austrian ruler). The beloved Franz Josef is nearby but not his nephew, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, who was murdered in Sarajevo—his wife was not approved of, so the two are buried elsewhere. (Franz Josef, upon hearing the news of his nephew’s death, said it was an act of God, really, since he didn’t marry someone more acceptable.)

Believe it or not, there’s still one plot vacant—awaiting the return of Charles I, who succeeded the throne in 1916 but was exiled to Madeira, Portugal, after the collapse of the empire. If he ever becomes a saint (he’s already been beatified), his body will be sent back to Vienna.

P.S. If any of these historical details are wrong, please blame my tour guide.

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