|Closed 1979||Affiliation Jesuit (Catholic)|
|Established 1651; 366 years ago (1651)|
Stella Matutina in Feldkirch, Austria, was a Jesuit school that operated in 1651–1773, 1856–1938, and 1946–1979.
History, scholarship, international flare
The “Kolleg” began in 1649 but opened formally in 1651. In 1773, when Pope Clement XIV discontinued the order of the Society of Jesus, the school closed. It was reopened under Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in 1856 with the support of Pope Pius IX in Feldkirch by Fr. Clemens Faller, S.J. Students came from today’s Austria, Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy, Croatia, and also Germany, France, England, Switzerland, and the USA. The highly-international teacher and student body flourished there until the outbreak of World War I. The conversational language was Latin.
The Stella Matutina scholars were well-known at the time. Achille Ratti, later Pope Pius XI, and Ludwig von Pastor went to Feldkirch to conduct joint research with Jesuit professors of the Stella. The Jesuit professors were expected to publish in their respective fields and not a few of them taught at the Gregorian University before or after their time at the Stella. A 1931 volume of 26 publications shows a wide range of topics, from theology to law and natural sciences. After the outbreak of World War I, the Stella lost much of its international flair and educated mainly students from German-speaking countries, including much of the Catholic aristocracy.
The religious spirit of Stella Matutina manifested itself in occupational choices after graduation. Over twenty of the graduates (1896–1938) entered the priesthood, in many cases the Jesuits. It operated until 1938, when the Nazis forced the closing of the school. With the help of French occupation forces, headed by a former student, Stella Matutina reopened in 1946 and continued until 1979. Today the building houses the Vorarlberger Landeskonservatorium, with over 400 students of music.
Stilts game and soccer
According to Feldkirch authorities, in the late 19th century, English students introduced soccer to the Stella and thus to Austria. This is debatable. From 1856 on, sports at the Stella was dominated by the now defunct stilts game, "soccer on stilts". The stilts, usually made from wood, were relatively short. They reached "with a transverse grab handle up to the middle of the thigh ... where they were clasped with a firm grip." Arm and leg muscles were activated by running on stilts and particularly by striking the ball with them.
On the playground there was ... only a gang of savage boys who, a big stalk in each hand, fought like possessed for a leather ball. ... There were some real masters among us, at home on the stalks just as on their own legs. ... As far as I am concerned, I was soon able to overtake in a race a good foot runner, to take obstacles jumping, to hop on one stalk - the other one swinging - across the whole width of the yard.
Since the stilt "was played with fanaticism", there were dangerous wounds – broken legs, lost teeth, etc. – and there were always quarrels among the players, who had the habit of hitting each other with the stilts. Because of these violent consequences, the stilts game was forbidden at the Stella Matutina and the "entombment of the stilts did not take place without streams of tears." The students went on strike, and the Jesuits permitted the less violent soccer version to be played. Unlike today's soccer, the players were allowed to use hands and there was no referee.
Not only soccer was popular. The pride of the school was a larger-than-Olympic size indoor pool, which was completed in 1912, the only one in Austria-Hungary at the time. A delegation from the ministry in Vienna complained in 1912 that there is no other school in Austria with an indoor pool, not to mention such a large one. Ninety minutes were available in the afternoon on a daily basis for sports. The students had six large play grounds, which were converted for ice skating and hockey in winter.
Stella Matutina had a series of well known professors and educators; among them, Franz Xavier Wernz, the General of the Jesuit Order; the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar; Cardinal Franz Ehrle, Professor and Rector of Innsbruck University; Hugo Rahner; social reformer Pesch; Max Pribilla and Erich Przywara, liberal authors; Otto Faller, Papal advisor, scholar and superior; Johann Georg Hagen, Jesuit priest and astronomer; Niklaus Brantschen, Zen master, author, and founder of the Lassalle-Institute; Michael Czinkota, Professor of International Business Economics at Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.); Thomas Baumer, Swiss interculturalist and personality assessor; and Arthur Conan Doyle, the Scottish physician and writer. Other notable characters include Alfred Delp and Alois Grimm, resistance fighters against the Nazis and martyrs; others survived concentration camps, including Friedrich Muckermann, Augustin Rösch, and professors Oswald von Nell-Breuning and Rudolf Cornely. Some professors and educators were previous students, such as Jesuit General Franz Xavier Wernz, Cardinal Franz Ehrle, and Professor Johann Baptist Singenberger. Other Stella Matutina students include Aloys Prinz zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, President of the German Catholic Association; "The Lion of Münster", Blessed Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen; Kurt Schuschnigg, last Chancellor of Austria before Hitler's take-over in 1938; and Heiner Geißler.