Stephansdom: Mediaeval majesty

For over 800 years now, the jewel in Vienna's eccliastical crown has been the magnificent cathedral known as the Stephansdom. Nothing remains of the original 12th century cathedral but, as it stands today, the building is a glorious combination of mostly Romanesque and Gothic styles with some later Baroque elements.

The oldest section is the west door (known as the Giant's Doorway) which is flanked by two steepled towers (known as either the Heathen Towers, for the pagan shrine that once stood on this site, or, alternatively, the Roman Towers) - dating from the 13th century. Almost all the rest - nave, choir and side chapels and steeple - was built through the years of the 14th and 15th centuries in High Gothic style, while the north tower with its pretty ogee-roof is an as-yet-unfinished 16th century Baroque addition that houses the mighty Pummerin bell, made from the melted-down cannons of the defeated Turks .

The absolute crowning glory of the cathedral is its steep-pitched roof, the tiles (over a quarter of a million of them) laid out in dazzling diaper and chevron patterns with two huge panels featuring the double headed eagles of the Hapsburgs and the Austrian coat of arms.

The cathedral's vertical lines and narrow perspectives (it sits on a very cramped space for such a massive building) emphasize its height. It towers over the roofs of the Innerstadte and it's quite difficult to get a good look at it from the close confines of the old city. Fortunately, there are several high spots around the city from which you can get a good sighting.

The cathedral was very badly damaged by fire during WWII. A massive restoration effort saw it rise again as the symbol of the city but , as is always the case with such buildings, the need for restoration is constant, ongoing and very expensive. Currently it is the south tower that is shrouded in scaffolding. When that is finished, it will be something else. Please don't begrudge a donation to this work.

  • Directions: U - Stephansplatz




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