Vienna’s churches are more than just places of worship. Above all, they are monuments of art and architecture of great historical significance. Not many European cities can brag about such a wide variety of religious edifices as Vienna does.
The history of Vienna, Austria’s capital, goes back to the 11th century when the Roman Empire created a military camp in the area that is now Vienna’s city center. Being the residential city to the Habsburg Emperors, Vienna had a strong association with the Roman Catholic Church. As a result, many Catholic orders built monasteries and cathedrals in Vienna.
Table of Contents
- Gothic & Romanesque Churches in Vienna
- Baroque Churches in Vienna
- Romanesque Style Churches in Vienna
Gothic & Romanesque Churches in Vienna
St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephanskirche)
St. Stephen’s Cathedral is Austria’s largest Gothic cathedral and one of Vienna’s most important cathedrals. The 700-year old Stephanskirche is located in the center of the old town, in Stephansplatz. You’ll find yourself quite often in front of St. Stephen’s while visiting Vienna, since from here you can easily navigate to other parts of the city.
One of the most recognizable parts of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral is its colorful roof. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice a beautiful mosaic representing the double-headed eagle, symbol of the Habsburg dynasty. The interior of the cathedral is also very beautiful, featuring 18 altarpieces, various chapels and tall marble columns.
Unfortunately, exploring the cathedral on your own is not possible, as most parts have been restricted by fences. As a result, the part that it outside the fence looks really small and is always full of visitors. Therefore, if you want to discover the many treasures held in this church, you’ll have to take a guided tour.
Stephanskirche is one of Austria’s most prestigious cathedrals. However, I personally didn’t like it so much. It was probably because the cathedral became too touristy and lost its sacred character. It also seemed very dark and cold, unlike other churches I’ve seen which were so bright and welcoming.
But aside from that, Stephanskirche is a place of historical importance. This is the church where Mozart married his wife in 1782 and where Joseph Haydn sang as a choir boy.
Admission: All-inclusive ticket is 17.90 €/person (includes the cathedral tour, audio guide, catacombs and the two towers)
Maria am Gestade Church
Along with St. Peter’s and St Rupert’s, Maria am Gestade (Mary at the Shore) is one of the oldest churches in Vienna and a fine example of Gothic architecture. Located at Salvatorgasse 12, among a maze of narrow streets, its outstanding beauty will surprise you as soon as you turn the corner.
During the Turkish siege of the 17 century Maria am Gestade suffered big damages and lost its consecration. In the years the followed the church’s faith didn’t get any better. During Napoleon’s occupation of Vienna in 1809, the church became an arsenal and a stable. It was only in 1812 that the church finally became what you see today and received its consecration again.
The church’s most impressive feature is its 60-meter high hexagonal bell tower. In the interior of the church is also very beautiful, depicting two Gothic altarpieces dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. Interestingly enough, although the church is beautiful, you’ll come across very few visitors here. That’s probably because it’s not very easy to find.
Votive Church (Vorivkirche)
Votivkirche sits right at the edge of Vienna’s city center, on Ringstrasse. The church was erected by Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian following an assassination attempt against his brother, Emperor Franz Joseph, in 1853. The Archduke’s initiative was to raise funds for erecting a church in thankfulness to God for saving the Emperor’s life. Funds for construction came from the entire Empire.
The interior consists of a nave and two aisles flanked by massive granite columns. The marble altarpiece is particularly beautiful, decorated with panels with glass mosaic inlays.
Admission: free of charge
Church Am Hof (Kirche Am Hof)
It’s impossible to miss the imposing Baroque façade of Church Am Hof if you pass by the square with the same name in Vienna’s City Center. But unless you step inside, you’ll never guess that Am Hof is actually a Gothic church! Church Am Hof was built in 1386 in Gothic style. When the church’s façade burned down in the mid 1600s, it was rebuilt in Baroque style.
The interior of the church is absolutely magnificent! The high arched ceilings and white columns give the church a very bright, clean look.
Church Am Hof has a particular significance in the history of Austria. It was here in 1806 that a royal advisor announced the end of the Holy Roman Empire and the 500-year rule of the Habsburgs dynasty. Today Kirche Am Hof is the main temple of the Croatian community in Vienna.
Admission: free of charge
Baroque Churches in Vienna
St. Charles Church (Karlskirche)
If you have toured enough European cathedrals, you probably know that after a while it’s hard to remember the characteristics of each one you ever visited. But that’s not the case of Karlskirche. In fact, it’s hard to forget what many consider Vienna’s most beautiful and unique church!
Karlskirche was erected by Charles VI, the Holy Roman Emperor, in gratitude for the passing of a Black Plague epidemic that swept through Vienna towards the end of the 16th century. He named the structure after St. Charles Borromeo, a saint who watched over plague victims.
For a Baroque church, Karlskirche has some unusual elements. Like its portico, that resembles a Greco-Roman temple. Or the two tall columns that look very much like Emperor Trajan’s Column you see in Rome.
The church’s nave is over-the-top beautiful, filled with marble and gold, with sunlight streaming in from the windows in its dome. There is a little elevator that will take you to the top of the church. From the platform up here you can see unclose the frescoes that adorn the interior of the dome.
Admission fees: 8 € adults; 4 € for students; children 10 and under enter free.
The Jesuite Church (Jesuitenkirche)
The Jesuit Church is a marvelous example of Baroque architecture, the creation of a Jesuit architect and painter – Andrea Pozzo. The church was dedicated to the assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven. Her salvation symbolizes the salvation of mankind and the triumph of God over evil. This celebration is reflected in the church’s interior, which is painted with triumphant bright colors and gold.
Jesuitenkirche is located on Dr. Ignaz Seipel-Platz, adjacent to the old University of Vienna buildings. Therefore the church is also known as the University Church.
Admission: free of charge
St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)
Just off the busy Graben, surrounded by 18th century buildings, is the beautiful St.Peter’s Church (Peterskirche). St. Peter’s is the second-most significant Baroque church in Vienna, after Karlskirche.
The original church that sat on this site dates back to the Middle Ages. However, the Baroque construction that you see today is from the mid 1700s.
St. Peter’s Church is not very big, but it’s unusually bright and beautiful. Everywhere you turn you’ll notice a rich, multicolored ornamental design. The pews are adorned with angelic heads and the walls are covered in frescos. The cupola is quite unusual, featuring a row of windows and a fresco representing the Coronation of Our Lady.
Just behind the main altar is an old Baroque organ built in 1751. The sound of this organ is particularly beautiful. If you are in this area around 3 pm, make sure to step inside. The church offers free concerts every Monday to Friday at 3 pm. We were fortunate to hear Mozart’s Laudate Dominum here. Divine!
Admission: free of charge.
Romanesque Style Churches in Vienna
St. Rupert’s Church (Ruprechtskirche)
St. Rupert’s is the oldest church in Vienna, dedicated to St. Rupert – the patron saint of the salt merchants. The Romanesque style of the church is rather modest and simple looking.
The interior is very peaceful – a little oasis in the middle of the tumultuous city, hidden between the tall buildings around. The church sits between Morzinplatz and Ruprechtsplatz and is definitely well worth checking out if in this area of Old Town.
Admission: free of charge.
St. Francis of Assisi Church
St. Francis of Assisi Cathedral also known as the Emperor’s Jubilee Church (Kaiserjubiläumskirche), is a newer church. Built in Romanesque style, the church was built between 1898 and 1910 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.
From the outside St. Francis of Assisi is incredibly striking, looking more like a castle than a church. Its three red-tiled towers are visible from afar. The interior of the church is simple and bright, depicting some more modern paintings that aren’t the typical older style biblical stories.
St. Francis of Assisi Church sits on the Mexikoplatz, in Vienna’s Second District. This area has lots of immigrants, which probably explains why the church is now home to the Vienna English Speaking Catholic Community.
Capuchin Church (Kapuzinerkirche)
The Capuchin Church and Monastery was built in the mid 17th century by Capuchin brothers. Located in the Neuer Markt square in Vienna’s city center, the building has a rather simple and modest appearance.
Kapuzinerkirche is famous for containing the Imperial Crypt, a burial chamber beneath the church and monastery. Since 1633, this vault has been the final resting place of 149 members of the Habsburg dynasty. 12 emperors and 19 empresses have been buried here, including Maria Theresa – the fierce ruler who persecuted sexual immorality and paved the way for mandatory education in Austria.
Burials still take place in the Imperial Crypt to this day. The last Austrian empress, Zita, was buried here in 1989.
Admission fee: adults: 8.50 €; children & students below 18: 4.50 €
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