St. Peter's Church (Peterskirche) is thought to occupy the oldest Christian sacred site in Vienna, as a church has stood here since the second half of the 4th century. According to legend, Charlemagne founded a larger church here in 792.
The mediaeval church had three altars, with an apse in the south instead of the normal eastern orientation. This unusual feature has triggered many discussions among experts, and it is suspected that the church was adapted from a previously secular building. The church was surrounded by shops and a nearby building housed the Stadtguardia, a forerunner of the modern police. The old church burned down in 1661 and was given only makeshift repairs. The decision to build a new church was taken up with the arrival of the Fraternity of the Holy Trinity of which the emperor Leopold I was a member. He had taken a vow to rebuild this church when Vienna was ravaged by the plague in 1679-1680.
The construction of the new Baroque church was begun around 1701 under Gabriele Montani, who was replaced by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt in 1703. The design was inspired by the St. Peter's Basilica of the Vatican in Rome. By 1722, most of the building was finished, and in 1733, the Peterskirche was finally consecrated to the Holy Trinity. The new church was the first domed structure in baroque Vienna. Due to the confinement of available space, it was built in a very compact form, with its oval interior housing an astonishing amount of space and rectangular attachments. The church makes an overwhelming impression on the visitor with its surprisingly rich interior filled with golden stucco.
The turreted dome was mainly designed by Matthias Steinl, who was also responsible for the interior decoration and the pews with their fabulous cherubic heads. The frescoes were originally painted by the famous Italian Andrea Pozzo, whose paintings were removed after his death. As a result, in 1713, Johann Michael Rottmayr was able to start a completely new set. The fresco in the cupola represents the Coronation of Our Lady. On the triumphal arch one can see the coat of arms of emperor Leopold I. In the spandrels around the dome are portrayals of the four Evangelists and four Fathers of the Church, painted by the Viennese artist J.G. Schmidt. The same artist also painted the altarpiece in the side chapel of St. Michael.
The Baroque high altar was created by Antonio Galli Bibiena and his Bolognese workshop (construction) and Martino Altomonte (1657–1745) (altarpiece). The altarpiece portrays the Healing of the Lame by St. Peter and St. John in Jerusalem. The same artist also painted the altarpiece in the side chapel of the Holy Family. The small painting of the Immaculate Conception above the high altar is by the 19th century artist Kupelwieser. The shrines in the side chapels of the Holy Family and St. Michael contain martyrs from Roman catacombs, donated by Cardinal Kollonitz in 1733. They were put on clothes from this period and placed in the glass coffins.
The gilded ornate pulpit is a magnificent sculpture by Matthias Steinl (1726) with on top of the canopy a representation of the Holy Trinity. Opposite the pulpit, there is a dramatic gold-and-silver representation of the Martyrdom of St. John of Nepomuk, sculpted by Lorenzo Mattielli. On top of it is the beautiful statue of The Mother of God.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.