Marie Knudtzon

Friends from the Magic Mountain

These’s a short version in English of a much longer article in Norwegian recently completed for a forthcoming book. How miss Marie Knudtzon T.O.P. made it her life’s work to found a Dominican monastery in Oslo together with fr. Ambrosius Lutz O.P. They became friends in the sanatorium of Grand Hôtel Leysin 1905-1907 (where the film adaptation of Thomas Mann’s famous novel was shot), and without these two, this Dominican friendship, there would probably be no Dominican friars, no Dominican sisters of apostolic life, no Dominican nuns, no Lay Dominicans in Oslo.


Friends from the Magic Mountain

He founded an Order, men say.
Say rather: friended.
— Simon Tugwell, Homage to a Saint (The Way of the Preacher, 1979)

 

Marie Knudtzon was an accomplished young lady – she spoke several languages, played the piano, painted, and excelled at wood-carving. For her education, she had been sent around Europe – to England, Germany, France. During the belle epoque, French was the lingua franca of “civilised people”, and thus she came to spend some time at a convent school. There she encountered the Catholic faith, and studied it with interest and growing enthusiasm.

On the twenty-first of April 1900, coming of age at twenty-one, Marie Knudtzon announced to her parents that she wanted to become a Catholic. “Do you really wish to be the black sheep of the family?” her father asked her. Catholicism was at best seen as a romantic phenomenon of the South, something that belonged in Italy with macaroni and serenades: it would set her apart. Yet he gave his permission, on condition that she think it over for a year.

Her very old father (65 when she was born) had been a chamberlain to queen Desideria of Sweden and Norway. Marie seems to have enjoyed life at the court in Stockholm for several seasons together with her three years younger sister Carola, who married a Swedish nobleman in 1902. “But when one, like me, have danced and had fun, one knows what it is…” On the sixth of February 1903, she did her abjuratio in St. Eugenia church in Stockholm, and became a Catholic.

In 1905, the union of Norway and Sweden under a Swedish king was broken up, but war was fortunately avoided. Marie Knudtzon’s father died in July at the age of 91, leaving a widow and four unmarried children – Marie (26), Knut (20), Terje (19) and Nicolay (8). And Knut was ill.

Tuberculosis – consumption, the “grey death”, the “robber of youth” – was the scourge of the 19th and early 20th centuries, killing one in seven. Sanatoriums became common throughout Europe from the late 19th century onward. The Grand Hôtel of Leysin in the Swiss alps, with its own railway station served by a cog railway up from the valley below, was considered one of the best, equipped with the most modern medical inventions. It was to this place that Marie went with her little brother to seek a cure.  The atmosphere is wonderfully evoked by Thomas Mann in his 1924 novel Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain), and the 1982 film adaptation was shot on location in this very kurhotel.

In 1905, the Grand Hôtel also welcomed their new Catholic chaplain. A 30 years old Dominican friar from Alsace, Fr. Ambrosius Joseph Lutz OP, was sent here to regain his health after spending five years teaching theology in Mar-Yacob and Mosul, in present-day Iraq. For a convert like Marie Knudtzon, he was a godsend. For the next two years, until he was sent to teach in a seminary in Palermo in 1907, they would have met almost daily – when she was not travelling herself.

She kept some souvenirs from her journeys – a certificate that shows that “M[ademoise]lle Marie-Thérèse Knudtzon” was received as a member of the Archconfraternity of Notre-Dame de Montligeon on the fourteenth of August 1906; admission tickets to the Sacred Palace in Rome for the Solemnity of the Resurrection in 1907 and 1908; a certificate of membership in the Venerable Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva signed by Fr. Vincenzo Novaro OP on the seventh of April 1907, Quasimodo Sunday; and, finally, a certificate documenting that “Suor Maria Caterina Knudtzon” promised, on the twenty-sixth of April 1907, in the presence of Fr. Domenico Antoni OP, Direttore, that she would live according to the Rule of the brothers and sisters of the Order of Penance of Blessed Dominic until death.

Scandinavian Catholics in Rome had a meeting place in Piazza Farnese, where Baroness Edle Wedel-Jarlsberg hosted a kind of Catholic salon with French as the spoken language. The Danish-born baroness and her Norwegian husband, papal chamberlain, were converts of the Dominican Third Order priest Cardinal Gaspard Mermillod. In 1899 she published a “leaf of the history of the Friars-Preachers” in Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden and Norway), kindling the idea of Dominicans returning to the “marches” where St. Dominic himself had travelled twice. Marie Knudtzon agreed that the Dominicans were well suited for the Catholic mission in Norway, and would have been happy to be the little seed herself – to become a nun in a future monastic foundation. “A Dominican in Rome” however advised her to stay with her mother as long as she lived, even though there were many servants in their country house.

After Fr. Lutz left Leysin for Palermo (and later Vienna, then Mulhouse in his native Alsace), Marie stayed with her dying brother until he died at the end of August 1910, and then returned home. To her mother, her thirteen years old brother, numerous servants, occasional noble guests, seven horses, thirty cows and sixty dogs.

Her spiritual reading included authors like Alexandre Piny, Jean-Baptiste Rousseau and Auguste Saudreau – drawing upon St. Theresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis of Sales and Ven. Luis of Granada OP. (Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP would later present, in a systematic way, this tradition of the contemplative life in his 1938 classic, “The three stages of the interior life”)

In a letter dated the twentieth of September 1920, the Apostolic Vicar of Norway and Spitzbergen prolonged her privilege of having a private oratory in her country château “Ulleberg” outside Larvik with five years, and granted her the additional privilege that Holy Mass could be read there on the greater feasts. It follows that her private oratory had already been in operation for several years. Here she would pray daily the Rosary and the hours of the Little Office (in French, it seems, judging from her well-used copy; the first and only Norwegian translation of the Little Office was published as late as 1961). The closest Catholic church was Our Lady of Good Counsel in Porsgrunn, about two hours by train from Larvik.

The French Dominican province had been invited – with promises of financial and practical support – to establish a convent in Oslo, and in the end signed a contract with the Apostolic Vicariate. On the twelfth of September 1920, two pitiably seasick Dominican friars – Fr. Réginald Louis Hélaine OP and Fr. Marie-Dominique Teillard-Chambon OP – arrived in Norway by boat from Antwerp. In 1921, they bought a property in Oslo where then founded St. Dominic’s convent – installing themselves and a house-keeper in the villa and furnishing one of the rooms to serve as chapel. Fr. Teillard-Chambon was replaced by Fr. Lutz in 1923, and then Fr. Hélaine died of pneumonia in May 1924. Fr. Lutz, the friar from Leysin, was suddenly the only friar left! Two other friars joined him in 1924 and 1925. An entry that reappears now and then in the convent chronicle is “Fr. Lutz in Ulleberg”. Mass could now be read in Marie Knudtzon’s private oratory, in the tower room of Ulleberg, as she had planned.

On the twenty-fifth of March 1925, Marie was in Oslo to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. Kneeling down in the friars’ little chapel, she received – then and there – a strong inspiration to found a contemplative monastery in Norway: The Monastery of the Annunciation, Dominican nuns. Fr. Lutz believed that she was indeed called, and from that day he helped her with everything he could. He wrote to the Dominican monastery in Lourdes, which he knew well. A young Norwegian woman had already come forward with a vocation to such a monastery, and was sent by Fr. Lutz to Lourdes at the beginning of Advent, 1926.

The patron saint of Norway is St. Olaf, the martyr king that fell at Stiklestad on the twenty-ninth of July, 1030. Catholics in Norway celebrated the 900th anniversary to the utmost of their ability, including setting up a small Catholic chapel close to the battlefield. An able wood-carver, Marie Knudtzon carved the wooden altar and communion rail – everything still there today. An old turner did the carpentry. Marie persuaded him to take her and the chapel furnishings in his old truck – possibly a Ford Model T pickup, judging from pictures – all the way to Stiklestad. The journey took five days in the open car – Marie reading the map, the turner’s son behind the steering-wheel, and the turner standing on the running board most of the way. From Ulleberg to Stiklestad, stopping for the night in Oslo, Hamar, Fokstua in the Dovre mountains, and Trondheim. They barely had time to install everything in the chapel before the celebrations started!

In March 1933, Anna Knudtzon died, 73 years old. Her daughter Marie then put “Ulleberg” on the market, having postcards printed with pictures of the house, grounds and interiors. Treacherously, the wooden chateau was torched in 1934, just before the sales contract was signed, and she lost a fortune – she had to think of a much more humble foundation. Also, the Dominican nuns in Lourdes had just made another foundation in 1929, and were not ready to make another. However, the Dominican nuns in Châteney were willing and ready to do it instead, and Marie Knudtzon bought the farm “Lunden” in Oslo. Then she applied for visas for the ten nuns who were making preparations to come, but the Norwegian authorities denied them: the Lutheran bishop objected to a Catholic monastery! The rejection came just weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War, so nothing more happened before 1945. But as soon as the war was over, Marie signed a contract with the Apostlic Vicariate to found a Dominican monastery.

In a letter dated the fifth of October 1949, looking forward to his jubilee the next year, Fr. Lutz reflected upon his ordination on the twenty-ninth of July 1900. The feast of St. Olaf, king and martyr, patron saint of Norway: “I have no doubt that he drafted me to his army that day”.

The first nuns arrived – from Lourdes, where the nuns were now ready to make the foundation – in 1951. Fr. Lutz and Marie Knudtzon could finally welcome the Norwegian nun who had entered the novitiate in Lourdes in 1927 – and had prayed for this foundation during all these years. Fr. Lutz lived to see the first years of the monastery, but died in 1955, before it was canonically erected. Knight of the French Legion of Honour, Master of Sacred Theology, preacher, thinker, author, composer, confessor – and friend.

The Monastery of the Annuncation was canonically erected on the seventh of June, 1959. Twelve nuns, and Marie serving as porter sister – Soeur Marie as they called her.

“The highest of all is to live an inner religious life worshipping God with prayer and penance. One needs to go through a long purging before the soul comes sufficiently to rest, so that the love of God is the highest of all. But when one, like me, have danced and had fun, one knows what it is, it is not much to lose compared to all you win by giving oneself to worshipping God. The only thing left to me is to set up a place where people who are tired of the world can withdraw for a few days to contemplate and rest.”

— Marie Knudtzon, May 1959.

Marie Knudtzon died on the fifth of May 1966, as the new monastery buildings at Lunden were almost ready. Her work was done.

 

Friends from the Magic Mountainhttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1903-stockholm-portrett-704x1024.jpghttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/1903-stockholm-portrett-150x150.jpgJan Frederik SolemEnglishHistorySlider,,
These's a short version in English of a much longer article in Norwegian recently completed for a forthcoming book. How miss Marie Knudtzon T.O.P. made it her life's work to found a Dominican monastery in Oslo together with fr. Ambrosius Lutz O.P. They became friends in the sanatorium of Grand...
<em>These's a short version in English of a much longer article in Norwegian recently completed for a forthcoming book. How miss Marie Knudtzon T.O.P. made it her life's work to found a Dominican monastery in Oslo together with fr. Ambrosius Lutz O.P. They became friends in the sanatorium of Grand Hôtel Leysin 1905-1907 (where the film adaptation of Thomas Mann's famous novel was shot), and without these two, this Dominican friendship, there would probably be no Dominican friars, no Dominican sisters of apostolic life, no Dominican nuns, no Lay Dominicans in Oslo.</em> <hr /> <h2 style="text-align: center;"><strong>Friends from the Magic Mountain</strong></h2> <div style="margin-left: 25px;"><em>He founded an Order, men say. </em><em>Say rather: friended.</em></div> <div style="margin-left: 25px;">— Simon Tugwell, Homage to a Saint (<em>The Way of the Preacher</em>, 1979)</div>   Marie Knudtzon was an accomplished young lady - she spoke several languages, played the piano, painted, and excelled at wood-carving. For her education, she had been sent around Europe - to England, Germany, France. During the <em>belle epoque,</em> French was the <em>lingua franca</em> of “civilised people”, and thus she came to spend some time at a convent school. There she encountered the Catholic faith, and studied it with interest and growing enthusiasm. On the twenty-first of April 1900, coming of age at twenty-one, Marie Knudtzon announced to her parents that she wanted to become a Catholic. “Do you really wish to be the black sheep of the family?” her father asked her. Catholicism was at best seen as a romantic phenomenon of the South, something that belonged in Italy with macaroni and serenades: it would set her apart. Yet he gave his permission, on condition that she think it over for a year. Her very old father (65 when she was born) had been a chamberlain to queen Desideria of Sweden and Norway. Marie seems to have enjoyed life at the court in Stockholm for several seasons together with her three years younger sister Carola, who married a Swedish nobleman in 1902. “But when one, like me, have danced and had fun, one knows what it is...” On the sixth of February 1903, she did her <em>abjuratio</em> in St. Eugenia church in Stockholm, and became a Catholic. In 1905, the union of Norway and Sweden under a Swedish king was broken up, but war was fortunately avoided. Marie Knudtzon’s father died in July at the age of 91, leaving a widow and four unmarried children - Marie (26), Knut (20), Terje (19) and Nicolay (8). And Knut was ill. Tuberculosis - consumption, the “grey death”, the “robber of youth” - was the scourge of the 19th and early 20th centuries, killing one in seven. Sanatoriums became common throughout Europe from the late 19th century onward. The <em>Grand Hôtel</em> of Leysin in the Swiss alps, with its own railway station served by a cog railway up from the valley below, was considered one of the best, equipped with the most modern medical inventions. It was to this place that Marie went with her little brother to seek a cure.  The atmosphere is wonderfully evoked by Thomas Mann in his 1924 novel <em>Der Zauberberg</em> (The Magic Mountain)<em>,</em> and the 1982 film adaptation was shot on location in this very <em>kurhotel</em>. In 1905, the <em>Grand Hôtel</em> also welcomed their new Catholic chaplain. A 30 years old Dominican friar from Alsace, Fr. Ambrosius Joseph Lutz OP, was sent here to regain his health after spending five years teaching theology in Mar-Yacob and Mosul, in present-day Iraq. For a convert like Marie Knudtzon, he was a godsend. For the next two years, until he was sent to teach in a seminary in Palermo in 1907, they would have met almost daily - when she was not travelling herself. She kept some souvenirs from her journeys - a certificate that shows that “M[ademoise]lle Marie-Thérèse Knudtzon” was received as a member of the Archconfraternity of Notre-Dame de Montligeon on the fourteenth of August 1906; admission tickets to the Sacred Palace in Rome for the Solemnity of the Resurrection in 1907 and 1908; a certificate of membership in the Venerable Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary in the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva signed by Fr. Vincenzo Novaro OP on the seventh of April 1907, Quasimodo Sunday; and, finally, a certificate documenting that “Suor Maria Caterina Knudtzon” promised, on the twenty-sixth of April 1907, in the presence of Fr. Domenico Antoni OP, <em>Direttore, </em>that she would live according to the Rule of the brothers and sisters of the Order of Penance of Blessed Dominic until death. Scandinavian Catholics in Rome had a meeting place in Piazza Farnese, where Baroness Edle Wedel-Jarlsberg hosted a kind of Catholic salon with French as the spoken language. The Danish-born baroness and her Norwegian husband, papal chamberlain, were converts of the Dominican Third Order priest Cardinal Gaspard Mermillod. In 1899 she published a “leaf of the history of the Friars-Preachers” in Scandinavia (Denmark, Sweden and Norway), kindling the idea of Dominicans returning to the “marches” where St. Dominic himself had travelled twice. Marie Knudtzon agreed that the Dominicans were well suited for the Catholic mission in Norway, and would have been happy to be the little seed herself - to become a nun in a future monastic foundation. “A Dominican in Rome” however advised her to stay with her mother as long as she lived, even though there were many servants in their country house. After Fr. Lutz left Leysin for Palermo (and later Vienna, then Mulhouse in his native Alsace), Marie stayed with her dying brother until he died at the end of August 1910, and then returned home. To her mother, her thirteen years old brother, numerous servants, occasional noble guests, seven horses, thirty cows and sixty dogs. Her spiritual reading included authors like Alexandre Piny, Jean-Baptiste Rousseau and Auguste Saudreau - drawing upon St. Theresa of Ávila, St. John of the Cross, St. Francis of Sales and Ven. Luis of Granada OP. (Fr. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP would later present, in a systematic way, this tradition of the contemplative life in his 1938 classic, “The three stages of the interior life”) In a letter dated the twentieth of September 1920, the Apostolic Vicar of Norway and Spitzbergen <em>prolonged</em> her privilege of having a private oratory in her country château “Ulleberg” outside Larvik with five years, and granted her the additional privilege that Holy Mass could be read there on the greater feasts. It follows that her private oratory had already been in operation for several years. Here she would pray daily the Rosary and the hours of the Little Office (in French, it seems, judging from her well-used copy; the first and only Norwegian translation of the Little Office was published as late as 1961). The closest Catholic church was Our Lady of Good Counsel in Porsgrunn, about two hours by train from Larvik. The French Dominican province had been invited - with promises of financial and practical support - to establish a convent in Oslo, and in the end signed a contract with the Apostolic Vicariate. On the twelfth of September 1920, two pitiably seasick Dominican friars - Fr. Réginald Louis Hélaine OP and Fr. Marie-Dominique Teillard-Chambon OP - arrived in Norway by boat from Antwerp. In 1921, they bought a property in Oslo where then founded St. Dominic’s convent - installing themselves and a house-keeper in the villa and furnishing one of the rooms to serve as chapel. Fr. Teillard-Chambon was replaced by Fr. Lutz in 1923, and then Fr. Hélaine died of pneumonia in May 1924. Fr. Lutz, the friar from Leysin, was suddenly the only friar left! Two other friars joined him in 1924 and 1925. An entry that reappears now and then in the convent chronicle is “Fr. Lutz in Ulleberg”. Mass could now be read in Marie Knudtzon’s private oratory, in the tower room of Ulleberg, as she had planned. On the twenty-fifth of March 1925, Marie was in Oslo to celebrate the Feast of the Annunciation. Kneeling down in the friars’ little chapel, she received - then and there - a strong inspiration to found a contemplative monastery in Norway: The Monastery of the Annunciation, Dominican nuns. Fr. Lutz believed that she was indeed called, and from that day he helped her with everything he could. He wrote to the Dominican monastery in Lourdes, which he knew well. A young Norwegian woman had already come forward with a vocation to such a monastery, and was sent by Fr. Lutz to Lourdes at the beginning of Advent, 1926. The patron saint of Norway is St. Olaf, the martyr king that fell at Stiklestad on the twenty-ninth of July, 1030. Catholics in Norway celebrated the 900th anniversary to the utmost of their ability, including setting up a small Catholic chapel close to the battlefield. An able wood-carver, Marie Knudtzon carved the wooden altar and communion rail - everything still there today. An old turner did the carpentry. Marie persuaded him to take her and the chapel furnishings in his old truck - possibly a Ford Model T pickup, judging from pictures - all the way to Stiklestad. The journey took five days in the open car - Marie reading the map, the turner’s son behind the steering-wheel, and the turner standing on the running board most of the way. From Ulleberg to Stiklestad, stopping for the night in Oslo, Hamar, Fokstua in the Dovre mountains, and Trondheim. They barely had time to install everything in the chapel before the celebrations started! In March 1933, Anna Knudtzon died, 73 years old. Her daughter Marie then put “Ulleberg” on the market, having postcards printed with pictures of the house, grounds and interiors. Treacherously, the wooden chateau was torched in 1934, just before the sales contract was signed, and she lost a fortune - she had to think of a much more humble foundation. Also, the Dominican nuns in Lourdes had just made another foundation in 1929, and were not ready to make another. However, the Dominican nuns in Châteney were willing and ready to do it instead, and Marie Knudtzon bought the farm “Lunden” in Oslo. Then she applied for visas for the ten nuns who were making preparations to come, but the Norwegian authorities denied them: the Lutheran bishop objected to a Catholic monastery! The rejection came just weeks before the outbreak of the Second World War, so nothing more happened before 1945. But as soon as the war was over, Marie signed a contract with the Apostlic Vicariate to found a Dominican monastery. In a letter dated the fifth of October 1949, looking forward to his jubilee the next year, Fr. Lutz reflected upon his ordination on the twenty-ninth of July 1900. The feast of St. Olaf, king and martyr, patron saint of Norway: “I have no doubt that he drafted me to his army that day”. The first nuns arrived - from Lourdes, where the nuns were now ready to make the foundation - in 1951. Fr. Lutz and Marie Knudtzon could finally welcome the Norwegian nun who had entered the novitiate in Lourdes in 1927 - and had prayed for this foundation during all these years. Fr. Lutz lived to see the first years of the monastery, but died in 1955, before it was canonically erected. Knight of the French Legion of Honour, Master of Sacred Theology, preacher, thinker, author, composer, confessor - and friend. The Monastery of the Annuncation was canonically erected on the seventh of June, 1959. Twelve nuns, and Marie serving as porter sister - <em>Soeur Marie</em> as they called her. <p style="padding-left: 30px;"><em>“The highest of all is to live an inner religious life worshipping God with prayer and penance. One needs to go through a long purging before the soul comes sufficiently to rest, so that the love of God is the highest of all. But when one, like me, have danced and had fun, one knows what it is, it is not much to lose compared to all you win by giving oneself to worshipping God. The only thing left to me is to set up a place where people who are tired of the world can withdraw for a few days to contemplate and rest.”</em></p> <p style="padding-left: 30px;">— Marie Knudtzon, May 1959.</p> Marie Knudtzon died on the fifth of May 1966, as the new monastery buildings at Lunden were almost ready. Her work was done.  

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  1. I find this history simply beautiful and am so grateful that it was forwarded to me. I have been an Australian Professed Lay Dominican for over 30 years and am fortunate to have just returned home to Perth after the Celebrations in Rome for our 800th Anniversary Closing Mass at St John Lateran Church in Rome. We had 4 days of Keynote Speakers & many worshops, believe me, we worked long days and were fortunate to have our Master Bruno Cadore OP and previous Master Carlos Aspiroz OP with us all week until the Closing Mass which was Concelebrated by Our Holy Father Pope Francis and Dominican Bishops and some of our Dominican friars.
    An extra bonus for me personally (apart from meeting with my daughter who has resided in Rome for 14 years) was that I met with many for friends who had served with me whilst on a previous ICLDF council, representing the vast Asia/Pacific Region. I am now the Coirdinator for our Region which is vast with very little English. Thank you again and blessings as we go forth until we meet again in October, 2018 in Fatima, Portugal.
    Together in Christ & St Dominic,
    Ms June Ross, OP. Coordinator for Lay Dominicans in the Asia/Pacific Region.

    Public CommentUserI find this history simply beautiful and am so grateful that it was forwarded to me. I have been an Australian Professed Lay Dominican for over 30 years and am fortunate to have just returned home to Perth after the Celebrations in Rome for our 800th Anniversary Closing Mass at St John Lateran Church in Rome. We had 4 days of Keynote Speakers & many worshops, believe me, we worked long days and were fortunate to have our Master Bruno Cadore OP and previous Master Carlos Aspiroz OP with us all week until the Closing Mass which was Concelebrated by Our Holy Father Pope Francis and Dominican Bishops and some of our Dominican friars. An extra bonus for me personally (apart from meeting with my daughter who has resided in Rome for 14 years) was that I met with many for friends who had served with me whilst on a previous ICLDF council, representing the vast Asia/Pacific Region. I am now the Coirdinator for our Region which is vast with very little English. Thank you again and blessings as we go forth until we meet again in October, 2018 in Fatima, Portugal. Together in Christ & St Dominic, Ms June Ross, OP. Coordinator for Lay Dominicans in the Asia/Pacific Region.

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