St Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna Stephansdom
St Stephen's Cathedral, with its 137m/450ft high spire, is not only the major sight and symbol of Vienna; it is also the city's most important Gothic edifice and has been the cathedral church of the archbishopric since 1722. The cathedral reflects the never ending labors of generations since the 12th C. and represents eight centuries of architectural history.
St Stephen's Cathedral Map
Official site: www.stephanskirche.at
Address: 1, Stephansplatz 3, A-1010 Vienna, Austria
Useful tips: Visit the website for Mass schedule.
Guides: Guided tour available as optional extra.
Facilities: Gift shop
Transit: U-Bahn: Stephansplatz (U1); Bus: 1A.
St Stephen's Cathedral Highlights
St Stephen's (Giant Gateway)
The Late Romanesque Giant Gateway at St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna dates from 1230 and has uncommonly rich ornamentation. In earlier times it was opened only on festive occasions. In 1805 Napoleon's farewell proclamation hung down from the frieze with its dragons, birds, lions, monks and demons. To the left of the vestibule two iron measuring rulers have been let into the wall: the longer one represents a normal Viennese cubit length, while the shorter one is the Viennese cubit length used when measuring cloth. It is also probable that passion plays were performed in front of this gate, the stage being erected on the cemetery area.
St Stephen's (Heathen Towers)
The Heathen Towers (Heidentürme) at St Stephen's are part of the Romanesque church which was first mentioned in documents in 1295. The name recalls the heathen shrine which is thought to have occupied this site formerly. The towers are 66m/215ft high and from the third story upwards their shape alters from rectangular to octagonal.
St Stephen's (Tirna Chapel)
Prince Eugene is buried in the Tirna Chapel at St Stephen's, which dates from c. 1359. The conqueror of the Turks is commemorated in a gravestone set in the floor. The Crucifix above the altar is 15th C. work. The beard of Christ is made of human hair and according to legend it is still growing!
St Stephen's (Stone Canopy)
It is likely that the pierced stone Gothic canopy dating from c. 1437 at St Stephen's is the work of Hans von Prachatiz; the painting of the Sacred Heart beneath it, however, is 18th C.
St Stephen's (Bishop's Gate)
The bishop's gate at St Stephen's - a counterpart to the Singer Gate - was the entry reserved for female visitors to the cathedral. Its figurative sculptures, dating from c. 1370, are examples of High Gothic art. Among coats-of-arms can be seen the figures of Duke Albrecht III and his consort.
St Stephen's (Pulpit)
The pulpit is the most important work of art in the nave of St Stephen's, a masterpiece of Late Gothic sculpture in sandstone. It was carved by Master Pilgram c. 1515 and is decorated with the figures of the Four Fathers of the Church. On the plinth Pilgram carved a representation of himself in the pose of a "peeping Tom". The so-called Servants' Madonna, on the pillar by the pulpit, dates from 1340. According to legend, a maid employed by a Count turned to the Virgin for help when she was wrongly suspected of theft. The true miscreant was discovered, and the Count's lady paid for this figure in St Stephens's to commemorate the event.
St Stephen's (Nave)
The spacious three aisled interior of Vienna's St Stephen's Cathedral is divided up by clustered pillars which support the stellar and reticulated vaulting. On the pillars are life size statues in stone and clay, the most valuable of which is that of St Christopher on the left hand pillar in the choir; dating from 1470, it was probably a gift from Emperor Frederick III.
St Stephen's (Organ Case)
The original organ at St Stephen's disappeared in 1720, and only the magnificent Late Gothic organ case by Pilgram remains; the monogram suggest that it was made in 1513. The man with the compass and set square, again in the pose of a "peeping Tom", is Pilgram himself. The new organ, installed in 1960, has 10,000 pipes.
St Stephen's (North Eagle Tower)
The "Eagle" Tower at Vienna's St Stephen's was never completed; the reason, according to legend, is as follows: Hans Puschbaum, who was in charge of construction, made a pact with the Devil to assist him in completing the work quickly, but was cast down into the abyss because he ventured to pronounce a holy name. The new Pummerin bell, cast in 1951 from the remains of its 1711 predecessor which was smashed in the air raids of 1945, has hung in the Tower since 1957. It weighs 21tonnes/20 tons and its diameter is 3.14m/10ft. It is rung only on special occasions such as New Year's Eve. Visitors can travel up to the "Pummerin" in a fast lift.
St Stephen's (Catacombs)
The entrance to the catacombs is through the chamber under the North Tower of St Stephen's; however, they can be visited only as part of a guided tour (daily 10, 11 and 11.30am, 2, 2.30, 3.30, 4 and 4.30pm). They extend from under the cathedral choir out under Stephansplatz, and the bones of thousands of Viennese citizens are piled up in tiers (but this part is not open to the public). This section has a connection with the cemetery which once surrounded the cathedral. As the dead were buried there in a very negligent manner - often the vaults were not properly closed or the graves not dug deep enough - and bodies were often prematurely exhumed because the space was needed for fresh interments, there was a general smell of putrefied corpses. So, in about 1470, it was decided to build a new charnel house, and the catacombs were constructed and were large enough to supplant the cemetery, which was closed down in 1735. By 1783, when Emperor Joseph II prohibited any more burials in the catacombs, more than 10,000 bodies had been interred there. The major attraction of the catacombs is the Ducal Vault which Rudolf IV had constructed for members of the House of Habsburg in 1363. After the construction of the Imperial Vault in the Kapuzinerkirche it became the custom to place here only copper urns containing the intestines of the members of the Ruling House, while their bodies were laid to rest in the Imperial Vault and their hearts in the Augustinerkirche. Since 1953 there has also been a vault in the catacombs reserved for the Archbishops of Vienna.
St Stephen's (Galilee and Primglocklein Door)
The porch between the two buttresses of the tower of St Stephen's is 14th C., as are the seated figures of the Evangelists.
Vienna St Stephens (Barbara Chapel)
The plan of the Barbara Chapel at Vienna's St Stephen's is similar to that of the Catherine Chapel (it was also designed by Puchsbaum).
St Stephen's (Donor Memorial)
Among the Early Gothic stone figures at Vienna's St Stephen's dating from before 1340 there is an especially fine Angel of the Annunciation and a statue of Our Lady the Protectress. They serve as ornamentation to the "Women's Choir", as it is known. Among the most important graves is the donor grave of Rudolf IV (which is, in fact, empty).
St Stephen's (Wiener-Neustadter Altar)
Frederick II was the donor of this winged reredos of 1447. It was only in 1884 that it was brought to Vienna's St Stephen's from Wiener-Neustadt.
St Stephen's (High Altar)
The High Altar at St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna was constructed from black marble between 1640 and 1660 by Tobias and Johann Jakob Pock. The statues around it represent the patron saints of the province, Leopold and Florian, and St Roch and St Sebastian, who were invoked in time of plague. Gothic stained glass has been preserved to the left and right of the High Altar.
St Stephen's (Frederich III's Raised Sepulchre)
The south choir at Vienna's St Stephen's is dominated by the huge raised sepulchre of Frederick III. It is made of red marble and has a larger than life size statue of the Emperor which is surrounded by coats of arms. The design is by the Dutch artist Niclas Gerhaert van Leyden (1467-1513), who himself made the top of this Gothic grave.
St Stephen's (Catherine Chapel)
The marble font at the Catherne Chapel in St Stephen's dates from 1481. The reliefs on the 14 sided basin depict Christ, John the Baptist and the Twelve Apostles. On its plinth can be seen the Four Evangelists. The carved wooden font cover is particularly fine.
St Stephen's (South Tower)
The famous "Steffl", as the Viennese call the South Tower of St Stephen's, was begun in 1356. It is 137m/450ft high and is considered to rival the tower of Freiburg Minster as the most beautiful German Gothic tower. The statues below the richly-ornamented canopies on the second floor are of those who endowed the church (copies; the 14th C. originals are in the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien). It is possible to climb the tower as far as the watch room, but there are 343 stairs to negotiate.
St Stephen's (Canopy)
The Late Gothic canopy over the Leopold Altar at St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna is believed to be the work of Hans Puchsbaum. It was donated in 1448.
St Stephen's (Eligius)
The Eligius chapel at St Stephen's is also known as the Dukes' Chapel, and its statues count among the most important of the second half of the 14th C. The "Hausmuttergottes" (the Protective Mother of God) from the former Himmelpfort Monastery was revered by the Empress Maria Theresa.
St Stephen's (Galilee / Aldertor)
The master builder Puchsbaum is thought to be the builder of this part of the cathedral of St Stephen's. The upper row of figures on the 19th C. canopy include Frederick III, Maximilian I, Franz Joseph I, Elisabeth and Maria of Burgundy. The iron cylinder on the pillar to the left may be a medieval sanctuary knocker.
St Stephen's (Potscher Madonna)
The Pötscher Madonna near Vienna's St Stephen's Cathedral under its Late Gothic canopy has been an object of veneration in Austria and Hungary since the Battle of Zenta in 1697. According to legend, tears streamed from the eyes of the Madonna for a fortnight at the time of the battle against the Turks.
St Stephen's (Singer Gate)
The Singer Gate at St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna was the entry for male visitors to the cathedral. The donor figures, the nine Apostles and the legend of St Paul in the tympanum date from 1378.
More St Stephen's Cathedral Pictures