Stephansdom: the heart of Vienna

Ogi Savic | Live the World

November 23, 2022

St. Stephen's Cathedral, or better known by its German name - Stephansdom, is the most important church in the city of Vienna, and one of its most recognizable symbols. It is located in the heart of the city, and it is impossible to miss it when you visit Vienna.

The church that is today the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the Archbishop of Vienna has been built in the Romanesque and Gothic style. Its major part that is visible today is from the 14th century, and it was built on the ruins of two earlier churches, the older one dating back to the 12th century. It is made out of limestone and has four towers.

Four towers of Stephansdom

The highest, still dominating the skyline of Vienna, is the south tower (136 meters), and in former Austria-Hungarian Monarchy, no church could be built higher than that. It represents an architectural masterpiece of the time, with less than four-meter-deep foundation, despite its height. Its construction lasted 65 years. There are in total 13 bells in the south tower.

Picture © Credits to iStock / sborisov

Two 65-meter-high Roman towers form the west facade and represent a part of the late Romanesque predecessor building. The name derives from the fact that they were made on the ruins of the structure built by Romans.

The north tower that was supposed to be as high as the south on was never finished, and it is only 68 meters high. Under the tower dome from the Renaissance period, you can find so-called Pummerin (the Boomer), the second largest free-swinging church bell in Europe. It was cast from the cannons captured from the Muslim invaders, and it weights 21 ton.

Picture © Credits to iStock / TomasSereda

Gorgeous decoration

The roof of St. Stephan’s Cathedral is one of the most beautiful features of the church. It consists of 230,000 glazed tiles, which form mosaics and the roof truss, a steel construction weighing around 600 tons. On the south side, you can see a mosaic of the double-headed eagle that was the symbol of the Habsburg dynasty, while the north side depicts the coats of arms of the City of Vienna and the Republic of Austria. In the nave area, tiles are arranged in a zigzag pattern, in a total of ten shades. It is interesting that the roof has a very high inclination so that it doesn’t have to be cleaned additionally. The rain and rarely the snow do the job.

Picture © Credits to Wikipedia / Bwag

The Stephansdom is very richly decorated inside as well, and the colourful and magnificent stained-glass windows in the Neo-gothic style offer a surreal atmosphere in the church, especially if you are lucky to visit it when the organs are played.  In addition, you can see numerous valuable altars and side chapels, but you can also visit the impressive cathedral's treasury holding the ornate relics decorated with gold and precious stones, monstrance, liturgical texts and books as well as vestments.

The Stephansdom is the real heart of Vienna, not just because it is placed on the main square in the city center, but because it has witnessed and experienced the centuries of Vienna’s very often bloody history and still stands to tell it.

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