Vienna Waits For You - Touring Wien's Church Buildings. (Part 1/2)
Updated: Jun 22, 2019
Vienna, home to the Wiener Schnitzel, the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and, of course, Klimt. It's housed the Habsburgs; nursed Freud's psychoanalytic skills; and nourished European souls through waltzes and wurst alike. Needless to say, it was an early 20th century greenhouse of political, philosophical, psychological, literary, and other forms of creative and musical activity. Vienna is known and loved for many reasons, not least because of its splendid church buildings. One needs only to walk a few hundred metres in the city centre before one is greeted by one of Vienna's many magnificent church structures. Here's one:
This is Stephansdom (St. Stephen's Cathedral). It's quite something, huh? All of that towering Gothic architecture boasts of over 30 gargoyles. (A passerby once told me all about them, including a couple of its more intriguing and unusual features. I'll save those for another time, perhaps.) Built in 1160, it was rebuilt following a devastating fire in the 14th century. Having survived WWII (there's a great story as to why!), it has watched over the city for 700 years. During those years, it has played an important role in Wien-life. Mozart was married here, Haydn sang his first verses as a choir boy here, and Vivaldi's funeral was even conducted here. It's certainly a rare and splendid gem in the Austrian Crown. A 3 minute walk down the road and we arrive at this beauty:
(In case you're wondering, yes; the sky really is that blue in Vienna. It's as blue as the blue Danube.) This is Peterskirche (St. Peter's Church). Again, it's pretty easy on the eyes, isn't it? Apparently, according to one source, "Experiencing the Peterskirche is like opening a psychedelic Easter egg." (I wonder what their Easters are like.) You'll have to visit it in order to find out why. You won't be disappointed. When compared to Stefansdom, this early 18th century Baroque church is but a humble country cousin. Before you feel too sorry for it, its history is just as rich. Charlemagne is said to have founded a church here during the late 8th or early 9th century. (Though there isn't much evidence to support this, there is a relief which recounts this, its most heroic genesis.) It's probably the second oldest church in Vienna, and, yup, it is a true copy of St. Peter's church in Rome. Now, I could take you to this church:
This is Michaelerkirche (St. Michael's Church). (Sorry, it's on the left. The one with the angel holding firebolts. Alas, I usually only have eyes for the Hofburg; all else is periphery.)
But, we need to walk on past it and through the Hofburg. We are now going to hang a left in front of the museums, and in a few minutes time we will take a right. While we are journeying, I'll share this with you about Michaelerkirche. St Michael's Church is the first place where Mozart's Requiem was played after his death. I know. Mind-blown. Anyway, it's getting dark and we are now on the edges of city where this bad boy resides:
Welcome to Karlskirche (St. Charles' Church). This one was finished in 1739. It exists as a result of a vow taken by Emperor Charles VI a year after the last great plague epidemic. He built it for his namesake patron saint, Charles Borromeo, a known healer to plague sufferers. It's difficult to see in this light, but there are two columns, one standing to either side of the entrance. These depict the life and times of Charles Borromeo in spiral relief. Karlskirche cuts a fine figure against Vienna's star-studded sky.
I brought you all the way out here because I wanted to share with you the opulent splendour of the vast majority of church buildings in Vienna. The ones you've just seen are certainly among the most prominent for locals and tourists alike. I'm now going to show you my favourite church building in Vienna. We should probably wait for the light, though. So, shall we meet tomorrow at St. Peter's at around 4pm (3pm GMT)? Great, we'll go from there. I'll see you then...