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Franciska Széchényi (1783 - 1861)

Franciska (Fanny) Széchényi-Batthyány, eldest daughter of Ferenc Széchényi, was born in Vienna in 1783 and died in Pinkafo (now Pinkafeld in Austria) in 1861. She married Count Miklós Batthyány. Ferenc’s much-loved daughter was a musician, a poet and a painter. During the Vienna Congress of 1814–15 Franciska made an impression with her outstanding piano-playing. Her own compositions were regularly performed at the church chapel in Pinkafeld, where she played the organ and conducted the choir. Franciska was a central intellectual figure in the Romantic circle of the priest Klemens Maria Hofbauer (1751–1820), canonised in 1909 by Pope Pius X. Franciska put the ideals of the Hofbrauer circle into practice in her own everyday life: in 1851 she moved the Merciful Sisters of St Vincent de Paul from Graz to Pinkafeld and founded a convent with a girl’s school, an infirmary, an orphanage and a nursery.

In order to finance her charitable work, she cultivated her estates with a view to maximising their profit. She arranged for the irrigation of her country estates, introduced fish ponds, bred sheep and cows, had a variety of fruit trees planted, set up a paper factory and a distillery, as well as buying spinning and threshing machines.

As a widow she entered the very convent she had founded in 1854 as a novice, taking the vow in 1860 and devoting herself to caring for the elderly and sick.

Franciska Széchényi composed works for piano, songs, duets and religious works (liturgical songs, numerous four-part choral works, a German Mass and a Latin Mass), which have all survived in manuscript form. Two of her spiritual songs have been published, appearing in the work Orgeltöne (‘Organ Sounds’) assembled by Ladaslaus Pyrker.

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