The Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral) is one of Vienna’s landmark buildings and not only a famous tourist attractions, but also still used as a place for prayer and church concerts.
Along with the plaza before it (Stephansplatz) it’s an important center part of the city, with metro lines crossing here, the major shopping street Kärtnerstraße starting here, and of course the famous horse carriages called Fiaker depart from here. It is a wonderful place to visit and explore, and flights are available into Vienna International Airport if you are excited enough at the prospect of seeing such amazing and awe-inspiring architecture.
The Gothic cathedral was first built in 1147 and its most recognizable characteristic, the diamond-patterned tile roof, was added in 1952. However, recent discoveries have found the land where the Stephansdom was used as a cemetery dating back to Ancient Roman times in the 4th century.
In 1258, a large fire destroys most parts of the church. A larger church is built on the remains.
In the early 14th century, the Gothic Albertine choir hall is constructured.
The year 1359 sees the foundation laid for further lateral reconstruction of the Gothic church. In addition, the construction was planned by four towers. This is the building of the Stepanshdom as we know it today.
Under the Turikish siege in 1683, parts of the Stephansdom are damaged by cannon balls. The Gothic wing altars are eplaced by early Baroque Baroque marble altars.
Around 1720, Vienna had an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague; over 11,000 persons were buried in the catacombs below the Stephansdom.
Over the next centuries, parts of the cathedral are renovated and reconstructed.
- Interior. There are 18 altars in the main part of the church. The HighAltar and the Wiener Neustädter Altar are the most famous. There are many more art treasures like the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram, the sepulcher of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert and the watchman`s lookout (probably a self portrait of the sculptor).
- Towers. The north tower has an elevator and stairs; make sure to climb up 343 steps via a spiral staircase to the observation platform. The views from the top are worth the ascent it!
- Catacombs. Take the guided tour below ground, and you’ll see the usual assortment of sarcophagi holding the bones of dead rulers, archbishops, and other personages. Somewhat stranger are the bronze containers where kidneys, livers, etc. of Habsburg emperors were interred in what might be called an undertaker’s waste dump. Finally, you’ll explore the catacombs where the bones of more than 15,000 Viennese have been stacked like kindling since the 1700s.
The Stephansdom has 23 bells, but the largest and most famous is the „Pummerin“.
At 20,130 kilograms (44,380 pounds), the Pummerin is the largest bell in Austria and the second largest swinging bell in Europe. Originally cast in 1711 from cannons captured from the Muslim invaders, it was recast (partly from its original metal) in 1951.
The Pummerin sounds on only a few special occasions each year, including christmas eve, the arrival of the new year and easter night.
Sundays and on holidays:
- 7.30, 9.00
- 10.15 (main mess)
- 12.00, 18.00 19.00, 21.00
- 19.00 (in English)
During the week:
- 6.30, 7.15 , 8.00 12.00, 18.00, 19.00
- The cathedral is shown on the Austrian 10 Cent coins.
- The Stephansdom is lovingly referred to as “Steffl”, a diminuitive form, by the Viennese.
- Its south tower is 136m tall and makes a prominent part of the skyline (and of the Vienna.net logo!)
- Over 3.5 million people visit the Stephansdom each year.
- The story is that Ludwig van Beethoven discovered the totality of his deafness when he saw birds flying out of the bell tower as a result of the bells’ tolling but could not hear the bells.
- Famous composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had his wedding in the Stephansdom in 1782 – and his funeral only nine years later.
- The relics collection in the Stephansdom includes a piece of the tablecloth allegedly from the Last Supper.
- Nine stonemasons are on staff fill time to reconstruct and renovate various parts of the cathedral.
- The Pummerin, the Stephansdom’s largest bell, rings only on special occasions – inlcuding the death of a Pope.