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Cathedral Administration St. Stephen's Cathedral
Treasury


Once
the honorary preserve of rich councillors, the Treasury is now a working
company

Concern about the preservation of the cathedral church has always been a special problem, one as old as the church itself. Instead of being a headache for the representatives of the church, however, it was a matter that originally tried the patience of highly respected Viennese councillors. In their capacity as the city's honorary trustees of the church they were responsible for the faultless administration of its
assets.

The office of the 'church treasury' was instigated to ensure that donations were actually spent according to their intended purpose, which was to preserve the church as a place of worship. From the second half of the 13th century onwards all church funds known as the fabrica ecclesiæ were administered by laymen in what was to later become the fully fledged Ecclesiastical Treasury or
Kirchenmeisteramt.

This was an honorary office restricted to only a few extremely wealthy members of the Inner Council of the City of Vienna because it was thought that they were the only people able to resist the temptation of siphoning off church assets. And indeed, there is no indication of any irregularities having taken place in the administration of St. Stephen's. On the contrary, the treasurers themselves made constant donations to the building work, as their testaments clearly
show.
As the 'principals' they were required to carry out all legal business for the church and to pay the wages of the craftsmen involved in the building work. They were also obliged to render payments and accounts with all due diligence.
 
Hence the Treasury was an extremely important office which was controlled by the burghers. It was not until the 17th century that the bishops began to make concerted efforts to intervene in the administration of St. Stephen's assets.

While the office of treasurer remained an honorary one through the 16th and 17th centuries, the incumbent was first granted a remuneration in 1700 and a share in the proceeds obtained from the ringing of the church bells at particular
services.

From the mid-18th century and the start of the 19th century in particular, a flood of decrees and ordinances testified to the desire of the State to tighten its grip over the administration of the cathedral's
assets.

Under the governmental decree of 21 September 1834, however, a certain amount of influence over the administration and handling of the church's assets was finally granted to a priest, the incumbent senior cure priest and choir-master of St.
Stephen's.

Following changes in the legal position of the Church under the Concordat of 1855, the administration of the cathedral's assets was definitively assigned to the Church. The Viennese Provincial Council of 1858 passed a resolution for the assets of the metropolitan church to be administered under the provisions of Church law.

Thus the Treasury which had started out as a body of the city authorities eventually became an office placed under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop and headed by an episcopally appointed administrator.

Source: St. Stephen's Cathedral Parish Gazette, 56th year/No. 2, December 2000