St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom) is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna. The current Romanesque and Gothic form of the cathedral was largely initiated by Duke Rudolf IV (1339–1365) and stands on the ruins of two earlier churches, the first a parish church consecrated in 1147. The most important religious building in Vienna, St. Stephen's Cathedral has borne witness to many important events in Habsburg and Austrian history and has, with its multi-coloured tile roof, become one of the city's most recognizable symbols.
The oldest remaining parts of St. Stephen’s date back to the 13th century when Vienna was growing in importance and significantly expanding its city limits. Duke Rudolph IV of Habsburg, in 1359, laid the cornerstone of the Gothic nave with its two aisles. From then on, it took over two hundred years for the building to reach its present shape: The most prominent feature of the Cathedral is the Gothic South Tower, which was completed in 1433. The unfinished North Tower was capped with a makeshift Renaissance spire in 1579. During the 18th century, the cathedral was decorated with Baroque altarpieces - the panel of the main altar shows the stoning of its namesake St. Stephen, the first martyr of Christendom.
Next to the North Tower elevator is the entrance to the catacombs underneath the cathedral. The underground burial place contains the mausoleum of the bishops, the tombs of Duke Rudolph the Founder and other members of the Habsburg family, and 56 urns with the intestines of the Habsburgs buried between 1650 and the 19th century in the Imperial Burial Vault.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral houses a wealth of art treasures, some of which can only be seen on a guided tour, such as a red-marble sepulcher sculpted from 1467 to 1513, the pulpit from 1514-15, a Gothic winged altar from 1447 and the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy, dating from 1754. In the North Tower, Austria's largest bell, known as the Boomer Bell (Pummerin), has found its home and can be reached via an express elevator that takes you to the observation platform.
The magnificent South Tower, which alone took 65 years to build, is to this day the highest point in the skyline of Vienna’s inner city. Climb the 343 steps of the tight spiral staircase that leads up to the watchman's lookout 246 feet above street level. The lookout was once used as a fire warden's station and observation point for the defense of the then-walled city. The climb is well worth it: Once at the top, you’ll enjoy the finest view over the Old Town in all of Vienna.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.