St. Stephen's Cathedral

Vienna, Austria

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.

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Details

Founded: 1359
Category: Religious sites in Austria

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Erik van der Velden (16 months ago)
We only did the catacombs tour which was nice. No pictures allowed. Unfortunately, the guided tours of the church were not available. So we will have to go back another day. You can see part off the interior from the inside for free, but it is very crowded with tourists. I really like the outside of the church and the tiled roof and especially the gargoyles. In summer they have rooftop walks on Saturdays, but we were here in March, so no such luck. Edit: we did go back two days later. That day they also cancelled the guided tours. The information could not tell us if there will be tours tomorrow. Hopefully there will be since it is a Saturday then. We will see.
Tom Nakatani (16 months ago)
Located centrally in old Vienna, this is a very nice example of a European cathedral. There is always a lot of activity around the area it's easy and free to take a quick peek inside. The roof tile is laid out with patterns and is spectacular to see. But with all the surrounding buildings it can be tough to get a great photo. I was a little put off by a giant Samsung advertisement hanging on the outside but this is definitely worth spending a few minutes to visit.
bijen shah (17 months ago)
Unforgettable For a quick visit you can enter and see the church from the left nave without charge. For a more thorough visit you can pay a small fee. There are opportunities to climb or get a lift up to two of the towers (small charge for the lift). Beautiful interior with very simple stained glass, a change from the brightly coloured and ornate windows of dome other churches. The height is stunning and there are loads of little stonework details to see as well as the usual altar and organ pipes etc.
Kate Kosche (17 months ago)
Attractive, can't miss edifice in the middle of Vienna. Packed with tourists seemingly from all over the world when we were there. Certainly don't expect any quite time for contemplation, though a good portion of the cathedral was blocked off possibly for that purpose. We were frozen stiff and they had heating vents in the floor blowing warm air and I could stand on them to thaw out. (Tip- the warmest ones were half way up on the left side.)
Jim Paterson (2 years ago)
An amazing place to visit. This church has such stunning old architecture, with incredibly detailed features. It is really captivating. You can enjoy a delightful time in the courtyard during the festive season, with stores offering souvenirs and delicacies to passers- by. Those in need of some warm sustenance can enjoy mulled wine, or soup in a loaf of bread! Delicious way to spend an evening.
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