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:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.