Two years ago I complained here about the very dark interior of the cathedral. On my new visit (end May 2012) the church was transformed in a festival of polychromatic floodlights!
Everywhere red, mauve, bleu, orange lights illuminating the floor, walls and ceiling. It was most surprising. Furthermore the windows were clad with stripes of colored transparent plastic.
I suppose it was the intention to create the same effect as that when the sun is shining through stained windows. I found it somewhat exaggerated but certainly spectacular.
The renovation works at the main entry called the "Riesentor" Giant's Door and the "Heidentürme" towers are now finished so that you get a nice view standing in the Jasomirgstrasse. The name for these towers on the west front derives from the fact that they were constructed from old structures built by the Romans ("Heiden" means pagan) during their occupation of the area.
Renovation works are still going on at the main tower.
St Stephan’s surely must take the award for the “Number One” sight in Vienna. The problem is that you are likely to gain the impression that nearly everyone in Vienna also will be visiting whenever you are there! An early start does help though.
Built in the 13th-14th centuries, St Stephan’s has had a hard time, being damaged by wars on several occasions. Most recently, it was severely damaged by fires late in WW II. That damage has long been repaired, but during our visit much of the main tower was so encased in scaffolding that I was prompted to make the unkind comment that it looked like a giant …well, never mind! Apparently the scaffolding is required for ongoing renovation work.
On your first visit, you probably will share our surprise at the extent to which the cathedral is hemmed in by other buildings, making photography very difficult. Equally, the external stonework shows the effects of centuries of soot and dust (Photos 2,3).
One of the building’s highlights is the richly decorated mosaic tiled roof. If there is a clear view of the entire south side roof from the old city area, we were unable to find it. Fortunately, a view of the northern roof with the Austrian coat of arms is possible from the Reisenrad giant ferris wheel at the Prater (Photo 4) (NB binoculars or a long telephoto are required). Another photographic hint – the late afternoon sun (heading photo) is much kinder than the morning light, and from a more suitable direction.
For over 800 years now, the jewel in Vienna's eccliastical crown has been the magnificent cathedral known as the Stephansdom. Nothing remains of the original 12th century cathedral but, as it stands today, the building is a glorious combination of mostly Romanesque and Gothic styles with some later Baroque elements.
The oldest section is the west door (known as the Giant's Doorway) which is flanked by two steepled towers (known as either the Heathen Towers, for the pagan shrine that once stood on this site, or, alternatively, the Roman Towers) - dating from the 13th century. Almost all the rest - nave, choir and side chapels and steeple - was built through the years of the 14th and 15th centuries in High Gothic style, while the north tower with its pretty ogee-roof is an as-yet-unfinished 16th century Baroque addition that houses the mighty Pummerin bell, made from the melted-down cannons of the defeated Turks .
The absolute crowning glory of the cathedral is its steep-pitched roof, the tiles (over a quarter of a million of them) laid out in dazzling diaper and chevron patterns with two huge panels featuring the double headed eagles of the Hapsburgs and the Austrian coat of arms.
The cathedral's vertical lines and narrow perspectives (it sits on a very cramped space for such a massive building) emphasize its height. It towers over the roofs of the Innerstadte and it's quite difficult to get a good look at it from the close confines of the old city. Fortunately, there are several high spots around the city from which you can get a good sighting.
The cathedral was very badly damaged by fire during WWII. A massive restoration effort saw it rise again as the symbol of the city but , as is always the case with such buildings, the need for restoration is constant, ongoing and very expensive. Currently it is the south tower that is shrouded in scaffolding. When that is finished, it will be something else. Please don't begrudge a donation to this work.
On my previous trip I visited the church and the catacombs and must confess that I was not "begeisterd" to use a German word meaning enthusiasmed.
From outside I certainly appreciate the originality of the roof decoration (makes me think of Burgundy) but I have seen other Gothic edifices in Europe making me feel more enthusiast.
It is not a matter of not looking enough at the Stephansdom because on this new trip my hotel room had a view on the main entry called the "Riesentor" Giant's Door and the "Heidentürme", that each stand at approximately 65 meters tall. The name for these towers on the west front derives from the fact that they were constructed from old structures built by the Romans ("Heiden" means pagan) during their occupation of the area.
This part, the oldest of the church, was undergoing renovation (2011). To hide the works a canvas painted like the real church looked covers the walls. Photo 1 shows the renovated part, photo 2 the works going on above the entrance hidden by the painted canvas. The renovation is now (2012 ref. my new tip) finished.
I also went inside several times but did not pay for an audio guide because the church was so dark that I would have needed infrared spectacles to see something of the announced "wealth of art treasures".
I know some churches where the visitor has to put some coins in a trunk to get light but at St. Stephen's Cathedral I saw no lights and found no paying device to get some.
There are guided tours; maybe that the guides have flashlights.
Sorry for this negative comment but I can only tell you what I did not see.
When Pauline first saw St Stephan's, she was a little disappointed that the cluttered setting of the cathedral detracted from the impression she had gained from the TV shows. What we found inside though, more than overcame any reservations she may have had, and we returned several times during our stay.
Inside, the Gothic ceilings soared skywards, their height emphasised by white banners draped for a forthcoming musical performance (main photo); the giant pipe organ above the entrance looked most imposing and we both wished we’d been able to hear it (Photo 2); at the other end, the richly decorated High Altar, with its painting of the stoning of St Stephan, was quite ornate (Photo 3); and there was the famous pulpit, with its small stone dog at the top of the curved banister keeping back the cane toads and lizards (symbols of evil) (Photo 4) while the unknown stone sculptor with his chisel (Photo 5) peered out of his stone window. And everywhere, as can be seen in several of these photos, were the endless crowds.
Yes, St Stephan's is indeed well deserving of its popularity.
St. Stephen has 2 major towers - South tower and North-tower, both can be conquered.
We first went after the North-tower (Nord-turm, 68.3m), which was quite simple: go to the giftshop in the church, buy a ticket, and the elevator will take you up in no time - the view over Vienna is spectacular. (Yes, it is also incredibly unnerving if you suffer from vertigo like some of us...) Up on top of this tower you can glance at Vienna's most famous bell, the "Pummerin" (21,383 kg). The tower also provides an unusually close look at the famous roof of St. Stephen's tower. The North Tower is the shorter of the 2 towers, since building in the Gothic style ceased after 1511 and the tower remained unfinished to this day.
Next we went around the outside the church on search for the door to enter the South tower. The South Tower (Sudturm, 136.44m) was completed in 1433 (the Viennese have given it the nickname Steffl, which also denotes the whole cathedral). This tower, one of Vienna's most famous landmarks, is lit at night and can be seen all over Vienna. This time there was no elevator, so we had to climb the stairs...and climb....and climb....and climb...... 343 steps. It was a little disappointing to arrive at the top and all there is, is a little wooden room with windows (yes - really nice view) and yes - another giftshop.... but it was worth it just to be able to say "We climbed the South tower!"
So you've gazed up at the Stephansdom, walked around the building, taking in detail of the exterior, now it's time to look inside. Like all the venerable cathedrals of Europe, the Stephansdom is a wonderful cornucopia of periods and styles. Each succeeding generation has left their mark in the form of the ornamentation of the church, leaving an overall impression of incredible richness. From the Gothic to the Renaissance and on to the Baroque, there are side chapels and tombs, altar screens and statues, beautiful stained glass and acres of gold leaf, exquisite carving in stone and wood, and from about 9am onwards ... hordes of tourists clustered around their guides as this feature or that is pointed out and described in minute detail. You could be forgiven for thinking that this place is simply another museum.
Come earlier, at 8 or so and you will find a very different scene. Calm, quiet dignity. Mass being said to a small group of worshippers in a side chapel. A few people like you, slowly making their way up and down the aisles, sitting a while on a pew in contemplation of some detail of the building around them, gazing with intense absorption at the expression on a saint's face. This is when you really understand what these great edifices mean to their cities and the people who know them and claim them as their own. How master stonemasons and woodcarvers could work for years creating such masterpieces. When you slip out of a side door, you may leave without having seen every last polychromed triptych or gently smiling saint, you may not know what year saw this chapel dedicated or that tomb added, but you will take with you some of the awe, and the succour, they have inspired in people for centuries .. a connection to those mediaeval souls for whom the worship of God was made manifest in their cathedral.
Before you make your way inside the Stephansdom, do take some time to have a good look at least some of the sculptures and frescoes that adorn the exterior. Prior to 1735 the area along the side walls and around the back of the cathedral was used as a cemetery and many of the memorials on the outer walls relate to that use. Particularly notable are the newly-restored relief of Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane as his Apostles sleep and the pulpit of St Johannes Capistrano with its depiction of the saint triumphing over the defeated Turk in celebration of the victory of the Battle of Belgrade on 1456. There are delicate traceries of stone, statues of saints and worthies, reliefs of Biblical scenes, elaborately carved lintels, a memorial marking the spot where Mozart's corpse was blessed on its way to the grave. The frescoes are somewhat hidden by a protective mesh as work continues on the restoration of the south tower.
It was the first day Ashley was supposed to meet my mom, so what better place than to get the two hopelessly Catholic people in my life meet at a Church - not just any church: St. Stephen's Cathedral! Located on St. Stephen's square in a pedestrian only area, and surrounded by some of Vienna's most exclusive shopping streets, this gothic church dominates not only the center of Vienna but also Viennese culture.
Once you exit the underground the church stares smack-bang into your face - Ash's catholic nature was so in awe that he got lost in the crowd staring open-mouthed at the tower. [Ash and the truth: THATS NOT TRUE-Eva points out the tower to me as we get out of the underground ... so there I am all lost in awe staring open-mouthed at the church, and when I turn around .. EVA's GONE!!!!! Thats when I try to locate her from a crowd of tourists, and a few moments later I see her hugging her mom. Mom gives me a bear hug, scolds Eva, and then we all go into church..smiling away! - Back to Eve]
Anyways, the church was built between the 12th and 14th century, destroyed and rebuilt several times because of wars, and thought completely lost after WW-II, but once again the Viennese decided on rebuilding their beloved church. Upon entering, one is awed by the beauty of the gothic architecture. The smell of frankinscense, the many candles lit for the souls of the departed, basins with holy water, and people kneeling in prayer gives you a feel of content somberness. We quietly walked around the church, admiring the artfully decorated walls, and successfully located the "Fenstergucker" (a small self-portrait of the church's architect, hidden under a stairway). We then went on to conquer both towers. In the back of the church is a little giftshop that offers books, cards, rosaries, medallions, pendants, and all sorts of souveniers. There is also the option of visiting the extensive catacombs underneath the church, but we'll keep that option for our next visit!
The STEPHANSDOM is the means's point of Vienna, and its most important symbol.
The Viennese name it "Steffl".
The prominent building is placed, in centre of the city, and is visible, from throughout Vienna. It is 108 m long, 39 m wide, and 137 m of high.
The construction of the cathedral began in the 12th century, in the year 1147, as a Romanesque basilica.
This church was burned down twice.
Under the order of the King Ottokar II of Bohemia, began in the year 1260, the construction of a Romanesque church.
From this construction, it remained the Giant Gate (Riesentor) and the west facade of the cathedral, with its Heath Towers (Heidentürme).
In the year 1359 began the rebuilding of the church, in the Gothic style.
The Foyer Choir (Hallenchor), the Nave, and the South Tower were erected in this time.
Beginning of the 16th century, the construction, at the North Tower, was broken, because of the dangers of the Turks.
In the year 1579, this tower was covered, with a tower helmet.
The Stephan cathedral remained relative intact after the Turk sieges, but in year 1945, it suffered heavy damages, under a big fire, almost at the end of the World War II.
In the year 1948 began the re-construction of the cathedral, with the population's support from whole Austria. It lasted seven years.
The "Steffl" was transformed into the people cohesion’s symbol, after the horrors of the war.
The massive Stephansdom is the Vienna's largest church, at the epicenter of the Old City, and the major church for the Archbishopric of Vienna. Based on recent excavations for a heating system, it may occupy the site of Vienna's oldest church going back to the 4thC based on carbon dating of skeletal remains. The earliest documented church is a Romanesque structure from 1137. Today's structure was commissioned in 1359 when Emperor Rudolf V used it to lobby for a bishopric for his growing capitol city. Construction and reconstruction have continued to the current day as the church has faced multiple wars, Turkish sieges, Napoleon, and two world wars. History states that the retreating Nazi forces were ordered by the city commandant, one Sepp Dietrich, to destroy the church but it was saved by a Nazi army captain Gerhard Klinkicht who disobeyed the order. WWII damage during the Russian occupation of the city was fire-related and quickly rebuilt.
My many photographs of Stephandom are undoubtedly being enjoyed by the dastardly criminal who lifted Proserpina's pocketbook at the Nordsee restaurant ( not that i am going to dwell on this ). Fortunately there are a host of superb descriptions of the church already available. So - a few photos and descriptive highlights.
St. Stephen's is big, 350 ft long and 130 ft wide, and the south tower ( images 1,2 ) extends up 445 ft, for many centuries the tallest structure in Europe. Construction took 65 years (1368-1443). During the Turkish sieges, it was the watchtower and command post for the defensive forces. As late as the mid 20th C the tower housed fire marshals who watched over the city. Up at the top is the double eagle imperial emblem with a Habsburg coat of arms.
The stubby north tower is only half as tall. Originally designed to match the south tower, construction was halted in 1511. Legend states the the architect Puchspaum made a covenant with the devil to guarantee successful completion of the tower agreeing never to utter a sacred name. After he broke the vow, the Devil threw him off the top of the tower with all the plans and building stopped at that point. The short tower was covered with a cap and construction was finished. One can apparently go up to the top of both towers for presumably remarkable views of Vienna. The tiled roof ( image 3 ), a 1950's addition, must be spectacular up there as even from the street the white, green, black,and yellow tiles in geometric patterns featuring on one side the Austrian Empire coat of arms and on the other the coat of arms of the city of Vienna and the country of Austria. Internet estimates for the number of tiles range from 230000 to over 500000.
St. Stephan's faces southwest unlike most cathedrals, oriented to the axis of the rising sun on St. Stephan's day December 26 1137 in honor of the first sainted martyr. The side walls are filled with reliefs ( image 4 ) taken from the cemetery area on which the first 12thC church was built.
The interior of St. Stephen's is uberGothic ( image 5 ), overwhelming heavy and with a pervading sense of darkness within. And crowded, with multiple services per day and innumberable tourists and groups. There are plenty of things to see here, but in the absence of images, best left to the descriptions of others.
This beautiful Gothic cathedral has thousands of visitors every year and they all seemed to be there on the day I visited. They were all milling around outside the cathedral on a hot Saturday August afternoon with the ubiquitous street artists and performers found in most cities - but inside it was cool and shady and quiet. Entrance is free but of course donations are always gratefully accepted.
The foundations of this cathedral date back to 1147 and the tiled roof (250,000 tiles to be exact!) was constructed with the design of the Hapsburg coat of arms in 1490. It was restored after fire damage in WWII.
The most famous cathedral of Vienna and in my opinion it is one of the nicest Church there.
You will find it in the centre of the city.
The first building was built in 1130 year.
The most impressive is south tower which has 137 metres of high and it is called by the people from Vienna as "Steffl".
Of course the inside of it is full of interesting stuff to watch like the most famous work of art which is the pulpit from the beginning of 16th century.
Stephansdom is the Cathedral of Vienna and the seat of Archbishop. It has major importance in the history of Austria.
The first parish church in Romanesque style was built here in 1137 on a site of an ancient cemetery from Roman times. It was consecrated in 1147 and dedicated to Saint Stephen. The first structure was completed in 1160 but the major reconstruction and expansion lasted until 1511. The present day west wall and Romanesque towers date from 1230-1245. Great fire in 1258 destroyed much of original building, the reconstruction works over the ruins had been replaced in 1263, when the church was consecrated for the second time. The Gothic Albertine Choir was added in 1340, and finally in 1359 Duke Rudolf IV ordered new additions which removed the second church (from 1263), leaving Stephansdom as it appears today. The south tower was completed in 1433 and the vaulting of the nave in 1474. The north tower was planned in 1450 but its construction was abandoned in 1511.
Built of limestone, the cathedral is 107m long, 40m wide and 136m tall. The south tower is a dominant feature of the Vienna skyline. During the Battle of Vienna, in 1683, the tower served as the main observation and command post for the defence of the city.
The main entrance to the church is named Reisentor (The Giant's Door). The tympanum, above the door, depicts Christ Pantocrator flanked by two winged angels. On the both sides of the main door are two Heidenturm (Roman Towers) and each stand of about 65m tall. The Roman Towers and the Giant's Door are the oldest parts of the church, from 1137.
Stephansdom is one of the big churches of Vienna and what seems to be a meeting point, if not for locals then for tourists hehe. By the time we were there, it was under renovations but I applaud whoever came up with the idea of printing how the church looks on the tarp that covers the part that's being worked on.
We met Michael and Ursula here for our walk tour.
According to the Vienna guide book I had, Första klass reseguider Wien (in Swedish), the roof (picture 3) is composed of almost a quarter million tiles and was carefully renovated after the horrors of WW2.