Australian Dictionary of Biography

  • Tip: searches only the name field
  • Tip: Use double quotes to search for a phrase

Kranewitter, Aloysius (1817–1880)

by G. J. O'Kelly

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

Aloysius Kranewitter (1817-1880), by Henry Jones, c1869

Aloysius Kranewitter (1817-1880), by Henry Jones, c1869

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 2766

Aloysius Kranewitter (1817-1880), Jesuit priest, was born on 14 April 1817 in Innsbruck, Austria, and entered the Society of Jesus on 21 September 1836. He was ordained priest in 1847 but in the revolutions of 1848 the Jesuits were expelled from many of the German-speaking states. Opportunely, a wealthy Silesian farmer, Franz Weikert, asked for a chaplain to accompany German migrants whom he wished to settle in South Australia. Kranewitter and Maximilian Klinkowstroem, a Viennese Jesuit, volunteered. Weikert sold his properties to underwrite the passages of the group who were to work for him in forming a settlement near Clare, but dissensions split the party on the voyage and when they arrived at Port Adelaide in December 1848 only fourteen of the original eighty stayed with Weikert. The arrival of the two Jesuits was a welcome surprise to Bishop Francis Murphy. The thinly-scattered and polyglot nature of the Catholic community presented many difficulties. Murphy asked Klinkowstroem to assist Dr George Backhaus in the care of German Catholics around Adelaide, but ill health soon forced him to return to Europe. Kranewitter moved north with Weikert to Clare. In 1853 he bought a property some miles from Clare, named it Sevenhill and planted the first vines there.

Kranewitter's letters to Rome in these years are valuable accounts of pioneering in the mid-north of South Australia. In 1852 he accompanied a large group of diggers from the Clare district to the Victorian goldfields. On his return he established the settlement at Sevenhill on a European pattern, with houses and farms around a large church and college. Local German Catholics moved into the area to escape the bigotry to which they had been exposed at Tanunda but copper discoveries further north proved a strong attraction to many settlers. By 1856 four other Austrian Jesuits had joined Kranewitter and St Aloysius College was opened. In 1858 Kranewitter was recalled to Europe for his last year of Jesuit studies, and he returned next year with three more companions. In May 1870 he was sent to Richmond to minister to the German-speaking Catholics in and around Melbourne. For ten years he worked mainly in the semi-rural districts of Nunawading and of Heidelberg where he died suddenly on 25 August 1880.

Kranewitter was an affable priest, deeply dedicated to his people and receiving great devotion in return. His chief memorial was Sevenhill, which became a complex of boarding school, seminary for diocesan students, Jesuit novitiate and scholasticate, wine cellars and the base from which the priests made their circuits of the mid-north. These journeys covered 25,000 sq. miles (64,750 km²), from Morgan to Blinman, across to Wallaroo, Port Pirie, Port Augusta and even down to Port Lincoln. From Sevenhill more than forty stone churches and schools were built. Some 450 pupils passed through the college in 1856-86 and seminarians ordained to the priesthood included Julian Tenison-Woods, Christopher Reynolds and Frederick Byrne (vicar-general). In 1882 the Daly River Mission in the Northern Territory was founded from Sevenhill and lasted till 1899. By 1901 some fifty-nine Austrian priests and brothers had worked in South Australia and the Northern Territory, a tribute to the initiator, Aloysius Kranewitter.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Watson, The Society of Jesus in Australia (Melb, 1910)
  • P. Dalton, A History of the Jesuits in South Australia and the Northern Territory (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Australian Jesuit Provincial Archives (Hawthorn, Melbourne).

Citation details

G. J. O'Kelly, 'Kranewitter, Aloysius (1817–1880)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/kranewitter-aloysius-3970/text6267, published in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 30 September 2014.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Aloysius Kranewitter (1817-1880), by Henry Jones, c1869

Aloysius Kranewitter (1817-1880), by Henry Jones, c1869

State Library of South Australia, SLSA: B 2766