Results 1-8of 8 Reviews
Moscow, Moskva, Russia
July 23, 2010
From journal Vienna at Christmas
New Delhi, India
July 13, 2006
Stephansdom began life as a fairly modest parish church built in the Romanesque style in the mid 12th century. Over the centuries, it was expanded and enlarged till it reached its present proportions. A lot of reconstruction and renovation was carried out in the early 1500s (when some Gothic features were also added to the building), and again just after World War II. Stephansdom, in fact, narrowly escaped being bombed into oblivion by the Nazis; a certain Captain Gerhard Klinkicht supposedly disobeyed orders from his boss to reduce the church to "debris and ashes". Stephansdom did suffer damage when Russian troops occupied Vienna, but some of the most precious art in the cathedral fortunately remained safe.
Today, with its 23 bells, its 18 altars, and its hundreds of relics (including the bones of St. Valentine), Stephansdom is one of the most important churches in Austria. This was where Mozart’s funeral was held; and this is where the tombs of Prince Eugene of Savoy and Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III are located.
We entered Stephansdom on a hot afternoon, and the sudden transition from the blazing heat outside to the cool dimness inside the cathedral was startling. A lot of old cathedrals are gloomy, but this one struck me as being particularly dark. And that impression was intensified because of the somewhat macabre sculpture in certain areas: skeletons, grinning skulls, and contorted figures run wild across the chapels and altars. The arched columns rising gracefully to the roof are impressive, as is the pulpit, a massive stone one carved with the figures of the four original Doctors of the Church (the Saints Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome and Pope Gregory I). The figures on the pulpit are curiously contorted, and combined with the carved toads and lizards adorning the handrail, the entire imagery is unsettling, to say the least.
Wandering through the cathedral, we came across some beautiful works of art too: lovely paintings depicting Biblical scenes, and stunning stained glass windows. The rose window above the main door of the cathedral is, in particular, very striking.
Entry to the Stephansdom is free, but if you want any information on what’s what in the cathedral, you will either need to refer to a good guidebook, or pay for a guided tour. The guided tours cost between €4 to 10 (the latter during the evening); separate tours apply if you wish to visit the catacombs or the two towers of the Stephansdom. The splendour and the significance of the cathedral are diminished considerably if you opt to just wander around, so I’d suggest investing in a guide- human or paper.
From journal Vienna Rolls--And Rocks!
July 18, 2005
St. Stephen's Cathedral is one of Vienna’s most famous sights. It defines the city centre and has been the heart of Vienna for centuries. It was built in 1147 AD. Duke Rudolf IV of Habsburg ordered the complete restructuring of the church in Gothic style. In 1359, he laid the cornerstone of the nave with its two aisles. The South Tower was completed in 1433.
The cathedral has two very impressive features: the gigantic roof and the tall, lean tower (1,367m). The Hochturm, or South Tower, at 450 feet, or 137m, is roughly the height of a 45-story office building, yet it was built more than 600 years ago, half a millennium before the invention of the modern skyscraper.
The north tower has an elevator and stairs; the Hochturm requires a climb of 246 feet (75m) up a spiral staircase to the observation platform. The views from the top are worth the ascent, and you'll also be able to see the colorful rooftop of glazed tiles (see photo) at close range.
Inside the cathedral are many art treasures, like the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1754), the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-15), the sepulcher of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert (1467-1513), the watchman’s lookout, a self portrait of the sculptor, and the Gothic winged altar.
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 cathedral was severely damaged in a fire caused by an Allied bombing in 1945, but it's impossible for the untrained eye to distinguish restoration work from the original.
Our visit was a little disappointing, as the tower was closed for renovation and cloaked in tarps full of advertisements.
We visited in the evening, and the organ music was loud and vibrant. We recognized the music... Was it Mozart? Strauss? No, it was the theme song from "Star Wars!"
From journal Waltzing through Vienna
October 7, 2003
The main west portal in the late Romanesque style is the major entrance. The interiors are richly decorated, if you can get away from the huge throngs of tourists. One can literally get lost amongst the fascinating artworks and interior spaces. The celebrated Gothic stone pulpit (1480) is finely crafted. Guided tours are available, like tours of the catacombs and special summer sessions conducted on Saturday evenings that include a walk along the fabled rooftops.
The gracefully Gothic South Tower, nicknamed Steffl, rises to a shade under 450 feet in height. Take a deep breath and climb the 343 steps that lead to an enclosed viewing platform at the top, complete with a small souvenir stand. There are some magnificent views of Vienna through the small windows facing the four principal directions. Do not forget to stare down at the body of the building itself, with its colorfully patterned roof tiles and intricate details. The North Tower is not as tall as the Steffl as it is technically not at its intended height, but it houses the 21-ton Pummerin bell. Allied bombings at the end of World War II destroyed significant parts of Stephansdom, including the Pummerin. Postwar construction rebuilt the cathedral, including the recasting of the bell, by 1952. If your legs cannot take you up the Steffl, ride the elevator up the North Tower.
Haas Haus is one of the most famous Postmodern architectural designs, thanks to its prime location in the huge shadow of Stephansdom. Designed by architect Hans Hollein in 1980, the surfaces of the glass and aluminum shopping center reflects the Stephansdom literally if not stylistically. The cafes in the upper levels have terrific views of Stephansdom, but locals joke that the best part of sitting here is that you do not have to stare at Haas Haus! Conservative tastes believe that Haas Haus does not show enough "respect" towards the neoclassical Stephansdom, but it stands out as one of the earliest and most notable contemporary buildings in Vienna.
From journal Bill in Austria - VIENNA
July 4, 2002
From journal Wonderful Wien
October 5, 2001
From journal Vienna -- A Breath of "Wiener Luft"
November 26, 2000
From journal Austria: Vienna
Williams Lake, British Columbia
September 10, 2000
From journal Four days in Vienna