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Hohenwart Monastery, 1742, Sister Josephine Rosenthal became pregnant. The nunnery was entirely cut off from local villages and after an examination, it was declared that she was a virgin, and also – to all intents and purposes unable to be with child. Despite this, Josephine carried the child to six months. By this time her story had reached the ears of the Abbot and she was brought before the council of Benedict.
She was then examined again, and it was declared that Josephine had undergone immaculate conception, a virgin birth. Despite attempts to quell the popularity of this story, Father Aaric soon agreed that this holy of events should be seen as a good sign, and Josephine was moved from her sterile nunnery to a chapel where she could be prayed for. When the child was born, the child would be visited by Bishop Dositheus, where appropriate rites would be carried out.
It was an auspicious moment for the Monastery, founded in 1074, from the monastery at Andechs, by Count Ortolf and his sister Wiltrudis, last of the noble family of the Ratoponen. Josephine had been born in the nunnery, and had lived an orthodox existence. Her only contact with men was the abbot, although her lifestyle was scrutinized for any lapse in faith.
Josephine gave birth to a girl in the eighth month of her pregnancy. She died once the child was removed from her, due to loss of blood. The baby was a little underweight but she soon recovered from the traumatic birth. She was christened Maria, and welcomed eagerly by the nuns.
She was not so welcomed by the council of Benedict. A female born of immaculate conception was attested and scorned. A few saw Josephine as the vessel of the second coming of christ, yet the sex of the child did not bode well for this prediction. Abbot Aaric was asked to tell his congregation that the child had died. He was saddened by this, yet agreed.
The nuns ignored the ruling. They deified the child and as she grew, attracted a loyal following. The holy congregation of Maria drew a formidable crowd, and she became an inspiration to the locals and transformed other benedictine communities. She was frowned upon by the higher echelons of the church, who denounced her holiness and declared worship of her as heresy. Despite this, her church prospered.
She wrote two treatise in her life time, only a fragment of which remains. It dealt with the original sin and the condemnation of the female. She pleaded with the church for revisions, yet her words fell on deaf ears.
Around her 33rd birthday, Maria fell ill. The condition could not be identified, and it was agreed among her followers that her death signified the second death of the holy progeny. Just as Christ had died around this age, so would she. They praised her living years and the strength she had brought to the community, regardless of the nunnery being ostracised by the church. She had inspired ideas of feminism and reclamation of respect. The male dominated church disputed everything that she offered, yet the congregation of Maria ignored these refusals, and after maria’s death, began to idolise and worship her remains.
The church no longer stands, but a number of items do still exist. Kept safe by the Hohenwart Monastery long after it has been dissolved and left to the women as an independent convent, the lasting remains of Mariah Rosenthal were moved from generation to generation until 1905 when they were examined.
Within a wooden box were four items of significance. The preserved front portion of her skull and face, a vial of her blood held within a glass vessel, and within a gold leaf case a lock of her hair and a fragment of her second treatise.
The blood and skin have been analysed and found to contain unique genetic traits. Not until the mid fifties were these attributed to a rare lineage. Both Maria and her mother had been hermaphrodites, able to spontaneously self impregnate and give birth to children, although the condition would eventually kill them both. It was agreed that Maria had been with child when she died at aged 33.
The remains exist today, along with the cross of Maria and her own rosary.