Leopold Wackarž

(1810 - 1901) Abbot of the Vyšší Brod monastery

Vyšší Brod, Cisterian monastery with reflection of water-level Leopold Wackarž began his clerical career when he entered the Cistercian Vyšší Brod monastery in 1833. He was consecrated a priest in 1836 and upon finishing his studies of theology a year later he held the post of teacher and choir-conductor in the monastery until 1844. He also taught The Old Testament on a private institute of theology for two years. He was a very clever and educated man, and his general knowledge and knowledge of business at his secretarial post helped him in 1848 when the estates were redeemed and patrimonial authority was abolished. It is no wonder that in 1857 he was elected an abbot. The bishop of České Budějovice appointed him to consistorial councillor. The new abbot began his activity with a radical restoration of the monastery church - its interior was furnished with mobiliary and organ in the new-gothic style while the exterior gained an annexed tower, and other changes were made in the convent. The reconstruction also affected the monastery buildings; for example a brewery was extended, the workshops with quarters for the craftsmen were built, and a laboratory in the monastery pharmacy was newly furnished. A new water supply in the monastery in 1887 signified a great event and big step forward. The reconstruction also involved the monastery estates, gamekeeper´s lodge, vicarage yards and churches. In 1888 the abbot consecrated a newly built chapel "Maria Rast am Stein" where large pilgrimages have been organised ever since. This very expensive reconstruction and construction by the monastery was financially possible only because the abbot incorporated the newest methods into all branches of farming and forest economy, he cultivated earth, rounded off the fields, founded arboricultures, etc. Leopold Wackarž of course looked after the cultivation of spiritual life in the monastery. He strictly supervised the observance of collective choir prayers and set the best example for the monks. He supported all scientific endeavours of all members of the monastery and extended the picture and product of nature collections. While Leopold Wackarž led the monastery about 20 monks were active in literature, especially in history (for example dr. P. Valentin Schmidt, P. Raphael Pavel, dr. P. Wilibald Ladenbauer) and in theology, and three of them were engaged in mathematics, while a valuable work of sermons was published by Emil Putschögl. More than half of them also taught on gymnasium in České Budějovice. The bishop of the time, Jan Valerián Jirsík, looked after the high standards of this school. Leopold Wackarž did not work only for his monastery. From 1865 till his death he was chairman of a new institute of the district council as well as chairman of a club of farming and forest economy in Vyšší Brod that he himself established. It was due to his efforts that Vyšší Brod was granted township status in 1870. He also aided poor people, especially a very small community of the Czech minority. As a member of the district school council in Kaplice and local school inspector in Vyšší Brod and Studánky he supported the construction of a few schools in the surroundings. He held a high post within the whole Cistercian religious order. In 1859 he began among the assistants of the general vicar of the newly-established Austrian and Hungarian religious order province and from 1875 was repeatedly elected as its general vicar. When he was 82 years old in 1891 he was elected the highest representative of the Cistercians - the general abbot. In the same year this religious order celebrated the 800th anniversary of the birth of Saint Bernard from Clairvaux, and the general abbot made great contributions to its dignified and majestic course. A very significant contribution to this celebration was Xenius Bernardin´s publication that was very well accepted by the educated world. During his functional period the much more rigorous Trappists reached absolute independence from the Cistercians. In 1897 the Vyšší Brod monastery was honoured with an event of the provincial board of ministers of the Austrian and Hungarian religious order followed by the general board of ministers with its chairman Leopold Wackarž. He resigned from his post of the general abbot in 1900 and died a year later, nearly 92 years old. According to sources he reached the highest age of all monks of Vyšší Brod monastery and held the post of abbot for the longest time, 44 years.