Franz Plankenbüchler was a landlord and ran his restaurant together with his wife on the Freudenauer Dammhaufen. The daily fresh Danube fish from the in-house fish farm were a special favorite with the guests. The soccer club “Freudenau" held its meetings in Franz Plankenbüchler's restaurant. Occasionally he drank a glass of wine with his guests. His wife loved dogs and because he loved his wife, he had no problem with that. And he was a devout catholic.
Franz often made the sign of the cross in front of a picture of the Virgin Mary, which had been fixed to the trunk of a tree already since 1863. The headmaster of a one-class elementary school near the Lusthaus set this sign because there was no parish church nearby. On a sunny day in the year 1911 Franz made a decision, though he had no idea of the consequences this would entail. He went into the thick alluvial Prater forest and searched for a good spot to set up a statue of the Virgin Mary. This should be a gift and an invitation to people passing by. An invitation to stop for a prayer or to recite a rosary and to bow before the Mother of God.
It did not take long before the place where the statue stood developed into a site of practiced popular piety. More statues were added, and people fixed crosses and religious icons to tree trunks. Franz Plankenbüchler can be seen as the author of the forest devotion in Maria Grün. There is a memorial site only five minutes from the church in Maria Grün that commemorates the forest devotion. It is hidden away a little in the forest yet well recognizable if walkers stroll through the world with open eyes. A memorial stone for Franz Plankenbüchler is also located here. The inscription shows that he was a sergeant in WWI and was killed in the war. He had been awarded several medals for bravery. There is a statue of the Virgin Mary right next to the memorial stone.
The church in Maria Grün was consecrated by cardinal Piffl on Dec 21st, 1924, seven years after the death of Franz Plankenbüchler. As time went by, a pilgrimage tradition developed. The church in Maria Grün gets its name from a cyclorama above the tabernacle. The painting shows the Madonna with baby Jesus sitting on a bench in Prater. The forest devotion is closely connected to this church. Father Clemens Kriz, acting AIDS minister of the Archdiocese of Vienna and Trinitarian, is pastor of Maria Grün and commemorated the forest devotion in 2011, which had its centennial back then.
The landlord Franz Plankenbüchler put something in motion by setting up a statue of the Virgin Mary that characterizes Maria Grün in a special way up to this day. Pater Clemens puts it in a nutshell, “It is a special kind of piety here, I think one must leave it as it is.“
© Jürgen Heimlich 2021-10-30