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Stephansplatz, Vienna

St Stephen's CathedralSt Stephen's Cathedral View slideshow
The square in front of St Stephen's Cathedral forms the center of the inner city of Vienna and is now a bustling pedestrian precinct surrounded by shops and cafes. After war damage and the building of an underground station the entire open space was newly laid out. Of interest are houses No. 2, "Zur Weltkugel" (The Globe), No. 3, Das Churhaus (Election House), No. 5, Domherrenhof (Prebendary's Court), No. 6, Zwettlerhof (Zwettler Court) and No. 7, the Archbishop's Palace. Until 1732 Stephansplatz was a cemetery, as is indicated by the tombstones incorporated in the external walls of the cathedral and the Late Gothic column in which the eternal light burned for the dead. A copy can be seen at the west end of the south cathedral wall. To the right of the cathedral colored stones mark the outline of the Chapel of Mary Magdalene, in which burial services were once held. It was first documented in 1378 and burned down in 1781. When Stephansplatz underground station was being constructed the Virgilkapelle (Virgilian Chapel) was discovered beneath the crypt of Mary Magdalene.

St Stephen's Cathedral

St.Stephens Cathedral is a major landmark building and cultural symbol in Vienna. The church, which was reconstructed numerous times since the 12th century, is a fine example of gothic architecture.
Highlights:

Virgilian Chapel

This extraordinary relic of Vienna's medieval past, which also houses a collection of historic Viennese ceramics, is open to the public. A comparison of architectural features - for example, the zig-zag motif on the rounded cross directly below the niche vaulting is similar to that on the Giant Gate of St Stephens's Cathedral - has enabled experts to date the chapel as 13th C. This subterranean room of niches was probably planned as a mausoleum and belonged to the Chrannest family from the early 14th C. It was their family vault in which they erected altars, the most important of which was dedicated to St Virgil. The fact that such a monumental vault belonged to a family without rank is somewhat puzzling. It is possible that the chapel was built by Duke Frederick the Quarrelsome (who wished to have Vienna created a bishopric) as a crypt for the bishop of the new diocese. The Duke died before his plan was realized - it was 1469 before Vienna became an independent diocese - and so the Chrannest family were able to buy the vault. After the last of the family had died the chapel became the seat of newly-formed religious brethren (the Gottleichnamsbruderschaft and the Kaufmannsbruderschaft) in the early 16th C. In the 16th and 17th C. it again became a place of burial. The subterranean vault was abandoned when the remains of the Chapel of Mary Magdalene were cleared away in 1781. The Virgilian Chapel is rectangular, 10.5m/35ft long and 6m/20ft wide. It was 13.5 /45ft high; today its clay floor lies 12m/40ft below street level. The entrance was probably via a trap door in the floor of the chapel above.
Address: 1 Stephansplatz, Austria

Cathedral and Diocesan Museum

The Cathedral and Diocesan Museum stands in Zwettlerhof in Vienna, adjacent to the Archbishop's Palace. Founded in 1932, it was remodeled in 1973 and extended in 1985. It displays religious art from the Middle Ages to the present day.
The Treasury contains the most valuable items from St Stephen's, including two Syrian glass vessels of the 13th and early 14th C., the St Andrew's Cross reliquary and an important 14th C. reliquary which was refashioned in 1514. Mementos of Duke Rudolph IV the Benefactor, who had the church rebuilt in Gothic style, include the Chapter Seal, an antique medieval cameo and his portrait and funeral shroud. Other valuable exhibits include a monstrance with a pattern of rays by Ignaz Würth (1784), enameled 12th C. tablets (with scenes from the Old Testament), a Carolingian ninth C. evangelistary with all its sides decorated with representations of the Evangelists, and the sword of St Ulrich (10th C.). Pre-eminent among the Gothic painted panels are the Upper St Veit Altar, based on a sketch by Dürer, and the "Man of Sorrows" by Lukas Cranach. Among Gothic sculptures are a relief of the "Descent from the Cross" and the Erlach and Therberg Madonnas (14th C.). The most valuable of the many early 15th and 16th C. sculptures are the Madonna of the Shrine (early 15th C.) and the Anna Selbdritt group by Veit Stoss. Pictures from the 16th, 17th, 18th and early 19th C. complete the exhibits. The most noteworthy Baroque works are by Paul Troger ("St Cassian"), A. Maulbertsch ("Golgotha"), Kremsesr- Schmidt ("St Sippe") and Jan von Hemessen ("Christ bearing the Cross").
Address: Stephanplatz 6, A-1010 Vienna, Austria

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