The charitable doctor – 150th anniversary of László Batthyány-Strattmann's birth

Hungarian version of the article: A szegények orvosa volt: 150 éve született Batthyány-Strattmann László

Written by: Nagy Veronika F.

November 12, 2020 at 9:00 AM

The Batthyány family has given Hungary many excellent soldiers, politicians and scientists. Among them, Dr László Batthyány-Strattmann stands out with his dedication and love for humanity. As an ophthalmologist, he spent all his wealth, time and energy treating the poor. Pope John Paul II beatified the prince in 2003.

Count Dr László Batthány was born into the historical Batthány family as the fourteenth child of József Batthyány and Ludovika Batthyány on 28 October 1870. His affinity for the sciences was obvious from a young age. Completing his university studies in Vienna, he first studied economics, then enrolled in the Faculty of Humanities and studied chemistry. He received his doctorate in 1896. He went on to study medicine and graduated in 1900 as a medical doctor.

László Batthány-Strattmann in Hungarian noble dress (Photo: muzeumkormend.hu)

He was still at University when he first considered founding a hospital for the poor on his estate in Köpcsény. He realised this goal in 1902 when a 30-bed private hospital opened in the palace.

As a doctor, he was mainly drawn towards ophthalmology. He became a specialist after passing an exam in Vienna. He practised surgery and internal medicine as well. During the world war, he substituted the general practitioner in Köpcsény, without being paid.

The hospital was extremely popular from the day it opened, often visited by over one-hundred patients a day. The doctor would even cover the travel expenses of several, as he practised medicine due to his love of humanity. He later moved the clinic from the castle into the village and expanded it. He later founded a smaller clinic and practice in Körmend palace (which he inherited, together with the rank of prince and the Stratmann name, from his uncle). Henceforth he worked alternately at the two locations. Following the Treaty of Trianon, the whole family relocated to the Körmend estate, where he continued his selfless work.

He completed over 20 000 surgeries during his career, 3000 of these were successful cataract removals (Photo: batthyany.at)

He donated a significant part of his wealth to charities and foundations for the development of Hungarian healthcare. He also continuously developed his own knowledge, collecting a major library of scientific works he also participated in conferences and scientific decision making. He maintained contact with several international colleagues and was elected a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

He primarily considered himself a doctor. He used his aristocratic origins and wealth to serve his profession. He considered healing the most important task and rejected a professorship to continue practising.

The main supporter of his work was his wife, Countess Maria Theresa von Coreth. The couple married in 1898 and had 13 children. The countess assisted in many surgeries.

Dr László Batthany-Strattmann in the company of his wife, Countess Maria Theresa von Coreth (Photo: batthyany.at)

The devoted doctor passed away on 22 January 1931 after a long illness he bore with dignity. Thousands visited his body lying in repose in Körmend Chapel. He was lain to rest in the family crypt at Güssing.

László Batthyány-Strattmann with his children (Photo: batthyany.at)

May this sentence from his will guide us all: "If you want to be happy, make others happy." Alongside caring for the ill, this was his main goal in life. Due to his humble commitment to work, and his deep piety the "doctor of the poor" was revered almost as a saint during his lifetime.

His beatification was initiated by both Archdiocese of Vienna and the Bishopric of Szombathely in 1944, but the storms of history swept the attempt away. He was eventually beatified in 198, due to a miraculous healing.

The motto of the Batthyány family – "With loyalty and love" – guided him throughout his life.

Today his memory is honoured in two locations around Budapest. He is depicted on a relief, erected in 2012, in the assembly hall of the 37-47 Tűzoltó Street campus of Semmelweis Medical University. The original of the work has been on display in the Hungarian Chapel of the Vatican since 2004.

He can also be seen in the 11th District. The Saint Gerard Parish Church stands at 149 Bartók Béla Road, and catholic saints line the spaces between the urn chambers in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart.

Cover photo: László Batthyány-Strattmann and his wife, Mária Terézia von Coreth in surgery (Photo: batthyany.at)


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