Stephansdom, the "Steffl"
St. Stephen′s Cathedral Vienna, Part II
Look at the Madonna′s eyes: they have the size of a Japanese anime cartoon. The Madonna is said to have wept tears during the decisive Battle of Zenta against the Ottomans in 1697. Austria won and the victory finally ensured the nation′s Baroque blooming and booming. Speaking of the victory over the Turks: Austria′s all time favourite general, Prince Eugen of Savoy, is buried in a tomb in the Tirna Chapel. This is only his primary tomb, though, as his heart is buried in Turin in today′s Italy - a great Baroque tradition that you can also see in the Kapuzinergruft.
Another highlight is a 16th century pulpit with portraits of the four "Church Fathers"; however, the pulpit is more famous for its "Fenstergucker" ("Window Peerer"), a self-portrait of the anonymous artist looking through a window on the pulpit. The choir is another impressive sight of the Stephansdom, but open only for guided tours. A tour will also take you to the "Wiener Neustädter Altar", a late-Gothic altar from the Lower Austrian city of Wiener Neustadt. Underneath the altar is the symbolic "Founder′s Tomb" of Rudolf IV and his wife Catherine of Bohemia. "Symbolic" as they are actually buried in the catacombs.
The most elaborate tomb in the Stephansdom, however, is the one Emperor Friedrich III. He was the first German Emperor from the House of Habsburg and the first in a very long line of successors. To indicate that he was a big dude, there are some 250 statues alongside with all sorts of other ornaments and heraldic decorations around his tomb - as well as his acronymic motto "a.e.i.o.u.". It has been interpreted in various ways, but essentially it means "Austria rules - that′s right!".
Catacombs and Nearby Attractions
The catacombs underneath Stehphansdom are open to visitors, but opening hours are more constrained than with the cathedral itself. Here you will find a nice selection of mummified bishops, early Habsburg rulers and other high nobility. Beyond that, there are several rooms added in the 18th century rooms that were closed in 1783 - they hold the bones and skulls of some 16,000 Viennese, arranged in somewhat bewildering piles.
Visitors exit the catacombs over a secret staircase. "Secret" in the sense that only a few million people that have been tourists to Vienna know of itů The sightseeing attractions in the immediate neighbourhood of the Stephansdom are limited, as many buildings were bombed to the grounds in WWII (it is considered a miracle that the cathedral itself survived). This explains some incredibly ugly 1960ies-we-rebuild-the-nation-in-concrete houses.
The Haas Haus is a piece of modern architecture that you find directly to the opposite of the cathedral. The "Dom- und Diözesanmuseum" is worth a visit and supplements the ultimate Stephansdom-experience with a large array of sacral silver and other treasures. It includes a whole lot of relics and pieces of art from several centuries.
Return to "Stephansdom Cathedral - Part I"
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