Salesianerinnenkirche Church:
Viennese Baroque for Insiders

A Canaletto painting depicts the view on Vienna from the Belvedere - the Salesianerinnenkirche features in the right corner

Vienna has several dozen of elaborate, Baroque churches - one of them is the Salesianerinnenkirche, which is among the most splendid and biggest Baroque churches of the city. However, it is widely neglected by tourists - which is a bit bizarre, since it boarders to the Schloss Belvedere Palace, one of Vienna′s most popular sightseeing attractions.

Vienna′s monastery of the Salesian nuns (Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary) was founded in the early 18th century by the widow of Emperor Joseph I, Empress Amalia Wilhelmina. In 1717, she purchased a stretch of land that had been devastated by the Turkish troops some 30 years earlier. Property outside of the city walls of Vienna was fairly cheap after the Second Siege of 1683, and it started to become a very fancy neighbourhood with lots of garden Palais being built for Vienna′s high-ranking nobility.

Empress Amalia Wilhelmina (don′t bother about her name, she barely appears in Austrian history books) hired the architect Donato Felice d′Allio, who had also been responsible for parts of Klosterneuburg Abbey north of Vienna. In 1719, the first wing of the building was usable and the nuns moved in, whilst the church itself was still being built. In 1726, the church was finally finished and crowned by an enormous cupola. The inside of the cupola was left undone at the time of the opening, because the Empress insisted in getting a famous Italian artist named Antonio Pellegrini to do the frescoes and he was busy painting other churches.

Completion of the Salesianerinnenkirche & Recent Renovations

In 1727, Pellegrini finally made it to Vienna and within a record-setting time of six months, he finished painting 500 square metres of cupola surface. However, instead of painting frescoes (by applying pigment directly to the moist mortar), he used a dried surface and applied oil paint to it. This made the Salesianerinnenkirche Church a rather unusual piece.

Unfortunately, it wasn′t refurbished until 1996, when renovation works started that are still continued as of 2008. The oil paint fell off in a large areas and the entire thing is in very bad shape - now the interiors are being restored step my step. The outside of the Salesianerinnenkirche already look much better and not like a battered Italian church anymore.

Attractions nearby are quite numerous: The Belvedere, the Funkhaus, the Karlskirche, the Wien Museum, the Musikverein, the Palais Schwarzenberg, the Hochstrahlbrunnen with the memorial for the Soviet soldiers, the Gardekirche Church, the Arsenal and a bunch of other key attractions are within walking distance.

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Further Reading

Official Website of the Salesian nuns in Vienna (Austria)

Very nice article on the Salesianerinnenkirche (sadly in German)

Planet Vienna has pictures of the Salesianerinnenkirche Vienna