St Stephen’s Cathedral

As promised, we’re going to check out St. Stephen’s Cathedral located in Vienna. On both full days in Vienna, I saw and took a bunch of photos of the Cathedral. The first day, when I saw St. Stephen’s Cathedral, I was awe-struck. It was mainly because I had been traveling underground via the Vienna U-Bahn (subway) and had yet to see anything in the daylight since arriving in Austria. Climbing up the stairs at the Stephansplatz stop to get out into the open and the first thing I saw was St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is located in the center of Stephansplatz, a bustling square located in the center of Vienna. These are some views of the square.

St. Stephen’s is massive! It is roughly 350 feet long (~107.2 m). It has four towers, the incomplete North Tower, the South Tower (called Steffl), and the twin towers, Heidentuerme, on the west facade. There are a total of 13 bells within the Cathedral. The church comprises of a few different architectural styles mainly Gothic and Romanesque, and it has been expanded throughout the time between the 12th and 16th centuries.


The first day by the Cathedral, I just walked around the main entry gate, which is called the “Giant’s Door” or Riesentor. I somehow managed to not take any good photos of it. Awesome, right? The Giant’s Gate and the two identical towers that surround the Gate, which are called the “Towers of the Heathens” or Heidentuerme, are the oldest section of the Cathedral. The oldest parts of the towers and gate date to around 1137 and I did get a picture of the towers.

The exterior of the Cathedral has many stone slabs attached to it. Further research about St. Stephen’s Cathedral revealed that the church was originally surrounded by a cemetery up until 1732; some of the grave slabs became part of the building and some of the other stones are memorial slabs to various people. I think these stones are beautiful and very interesting considering I have a huge interest in cemeteries and funerary art. I also can not read German or Latin, so I have no idea what they say! If anyone had more information about these memorial slab, leave a message in the comment section below, I would LOVE to learn more about these stones.

The second day by the Cathedral, it seems like a better opportunity to checkout the interior. There were a lot of visitors both outside and within the building, and I had arrived around the time that Mass had begun (or I just didn’t read signs correctly), which limited what could be seen inside because of the ongoing Mass. Either way it was tough getting good images, plus I was having a moment with my camera….I had the exposure incorrect for the first few photos. I finally got my act together and these are some views from inside the Cathedral.

So the history of the building goes something like this….

The oldest section of the Cathedral is the west facade. This is the facade with the “Giant’s Door” and the “Towers of the Heathens.” The Cathedral stands on the ruins of two earlier churches- the first dates from 1137, this was expanded into a larger Romanesque Basilica during the 13th century (1230-1245). The west facade was all that really remained after a fire in 1258 destroyed the Basilica. The history of the names for the gate and the towers is interesting. The “Giant’s Door” is in reference to a thighbone of the mastodon that originally hung over the entryway for a very long time- it was found while digging the foundations for the North Tower. The Heidentuerme received their name because they were constructed using rubble from old Roman structures in the area.

Researching the early history of the Cathedral was confusing….no one internet source made it clear on how early the west facade was built. But using multiple sources I seemed to conclude that the west facade has remains of the earlier 1137 structure that was expanded later in the 13th century.

After the fire in 1258, Duke Rudolph IV of Habsburg initiated the reconstruction of the Cathedral into what it it looks like today. The new construction did not begin until the 14th century (around 1359 when the Nave and aisles were built), the South Tower was completed in 1433, and it continued until 1511 when all construction stopped. The North Tower was never completed; it was suppose to look like the South Tower. Until 1732, the Cathedral was surrounded by a cemetery and some of the gravestones from that cemetery became part of the building.

During the 18th century, the interior was refurbished in the baroque style. There are a total of 18 altars within the Cathedral. The High Altar, the main focal point within the church was built from 1641 to 1647 and was built by Tobias Pock. During the last days of World War 2, the Cathedral was severely damaged by fire with the biggest issue being the roof and wooden framework had collapsed. Rebuilding the Cathedral began almost immediately. By 1948, the church had limited open times to the public and by 1952, the church was fully open for public use. The roof was reconstructed using 230,000 brightly-colored glazed tiles, which were donated by Austria’s citizens. The reconstruction of St. Stephen’s Cathedral became a symbol for Austria and its people after the War. The roof’s tiles are set in a couple of different designs. One mosaic is of the Royal and Imperial Double Headed Eagle and the other is the coat of arms for the city of Vienna.

The Cathedral is currently undergoing restoration work, which includes cleaning the limestone that has been blackened by air pollution.

The Cathedral does have catacombs, which I did not visit. On that note, it is free to walk into St. Stephen’s but guided tours of areas such as the catacombs do cost money. Important burials in the catacombs include cardinals, archbishops of Austria, Duke Rudolph IV of Habsburg, Prince Eugene of Savoy, and Emperor Friedrich III. Mozart was married at the church in 1782. Other marriages held at the Cathedral include the marriage of Louis II of Hungary to Mary of Austria in 1515. The Cathedral has also been the location of many important funerals including: Emperor Franz Joseph and Otto von Habsburg, the last crown prince of Austria- Hungary.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a beautiful building with an extremely rich and living history. If you ever find yourself in Vienna, it is a place to visit. I know if I ever get back to Vienna, I would want to do the guided tours!

Thanks for reading! If you have any thoughts, let me know in the comment section below 🙂

Sources and Further Reading

It is difficult to create actual “Footnotes” or “Endnotes” when I have seven to eight internet sources that tell me the exact same thing…and there’s no clear author. These sources have last been accessed by myself 11/28/2016.

The most interesting internet source I used was from Wikipedia. If I haven’t said it yet, let me do it now. Wikipedia is not a good resource (that’s what I learned while in college) but of all the websites I checked out to get an idea of the history of St. Stephen’s, Wikipedia offered the most comprehensive history. I also greatly enjoyed looking at the multiple images highlighting the building expansions of the Cathedral and even the layout of the interior of the Cathedral. I suggest you check them out if you’re interested in learning more about the construction history of St. Stephen’s. Most of the other internet sources are travel and tourist websites that give general information about the Cathedral.’s_Cathedral,_Vienna

As already said above, Wikipedia is not always the best source to use….BUT in this case the web page has some really good graphics showing the different expansions St. Stephen’s went through. It also had the most comprehensive history of the Cathedral compared to all the above sources.


A Day in Vienna

My previous post gave a small introduction into my trip to Vienna and Austria. So we can back track slightly now. The trip, at least the destination, was planned by Jake. The month’s leading up to the trip, Jake posted clues to our adventure trip on Facebook. Some might find that to be cute and uber romantic…..ugh, it was….but it was also nerve-racking because I’ve never been out of the country (Canada doesn’t count because I go there so often) and had no idea where we were going.

My flight left from Montreal, Monday October 10 at 10:00 pm, which went to Heathrow in London From London I flew to Dusseldorf, Germany, and then from there, I arrived October 11 around 5ish in the evening in Vienna. On paper I was suppose to have about an hour wait time in London from the time my Montreal flight arrived to when I needed to board the flight to Dusseldorf….this did not happen. I almost missed the damn flight because the one I was on from Montreal was late! My favorite things said during the mad rush to the next flight included the flight attendant who checks your boarding pass telling me, “So glad you arrived Ms. Doyle, we were about to start paging for you!” and the pilot announcing, “Now that we’re all aboard, we can take off.”

The rest of the flight adventure was less eventful and the snacks on the flights were good. The food on British Airways was good but by the time I was on the flight to Dusseldorf I was hungry. Very hungry. Luckily there was snack time on all of the flights, which is possibly the most important time of the day. I had some Island Bakery Lemon Melts, which were made in Scotland on the flight to Dusseldorf. Those were very good. The snack time on the flight between Dusseldorf and Vienna consisted of some sandwiches. I can’t really recall what the sandwich was made of but it had red peppers on it and cheese. It was good but again I was very hungry, so it might have been horrible.

Finally. I arrived in Vienna: hungry, exhausted, sore. But I couldn’t let that get in the way of all there was to see!

So the first full day of Vienna, a lot of walking occurred! It was easy to get to the subway from the hotel, Falkensteiner Hotel Wien, that we were staying at in Margareten, one of the districts within Vienna. The subway got us from the Margaretengürtel stop to the Stephansplatz stop, which brings you right out front of St. Stephan’s Cathedral. I’ll share more photos and information about the Cathedral in another post (probably the next one) because it’s a really awesome building with a great history.

St. Stephan's Cathedral
St. Stephan’s Cathedral, the biggest thing you see when you ascend the steps from the Stephansplatz subway stop.

We grabbed breakfast at a restaurant called Chilai Ringstrassen Galerien, located near the Kärntnerstrasse, which is part of the business district and has A LOT of shopping. After breakfast we walked around and ended up seeing a lot go cool things. We walked through the Stadtpark, a huge public park- more on that and other Art Nouveau architecture soon…. By walking through the Stadtpark, we ended up near the Wien River (Vienna River). By this time I needed a snack and it was cold, so it officially was break time! We stopped at a place called Urania, which had a cafe at it. The Urania was opened in 1910 by Emperor Franz Joseph as an educational facility and public observatory, and it still serves that purpose to this day.


While refueling with coffee and apfelstrudel (apple strudel as you probably guessed), we made plans to find the giant Ferris wheel that was visible from the cafe. On a side note, the apfelstrudel was amazing at the Urania Cafe. This apfelstrudel, was the apfelstrudel to beat, and no other strudel compared to it the entirety of the trip. If you’re at the Urania, get the apfelstrudel.


Along the Wien River there was a path, so Jake and I followed it to get us closer to the Ferris wheel.

The Ferris wheel we were headed towards is the Wiener Riesenrad (Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel). It was designed by the English engineer Walter B. Basset. The wheel was constructed in 8 short months from 1896 to 1897, and was officially opened to the public on July 3, 1897 during the crown jubilee of Emperor Franz Joseph (the same guy behind the Urania). Since its opening, the Wiener Riesenrad has stood as a landmark of Vienna in the Wiener Prater.

The Prater is a large public park in Vienna’s second district, Leopoldstadt. The park has a long history and was first mentioned in the historical record around 1162. Throughout its history, it had served as the imperial hunting grounds for the Habsburg family. It did not become the public leisure space its known as today, until 1766 when Emperor Joseph II opened the Prater to the people. Emperor Joseph II was the son of Empress Marie Theresa and older brother to the French Queen Marie Antoinette. The Prater does have an amusement park within it; it’s free to walk around but each ride costs money. The Wiener Riesenrad isn’t just a Ferris wheel, within the small complex for the attraction there is a little panorama museum highlighting the history of the Prater and the Riesenrad, a restaurant below the wheel, a souvenir shop, and there is the ability to rent out certain cabins on the wheel for events/parties/dates.

Walking through the Prater, the scenery changes quite a bit, it goes from an amusement park to a forested park.

From the Prater, Jake and I, walked back over the Wien River, eventually we decided to take a trolley to get closer to our original starting point: Stephansplatz. We actually got off the trolley near the Museum Quarter, an area where there are many museums and government buildings. The street we were on is called the Opernring and it turns into Burgring as it goes by a few of the Austrian museums. Walking down the street we arrived at this area teeming with life in front of this huge multi-towered building and the Habsburg Theater. Apparently a circus was going to be happening later in the evening and a number of food and drink stalls had been set up for the event. The food and drink stalls all varied in their offerings. I settled on a käsekrainer, a sausage with cheese in it and it came with a hard roll and mustard. It was good! I also got some kind of wine spritzer drink flavored with lavender syrup. The interesting part of ordering the food is that the plates and cups had a deposit on them. So you paid a small fee, like one euro, which you got back when you returned the plate or cup.

The large multi-towered where the all the action was taking place in front of was the Vienna’s Rathaus, the city hall. It was designed by Friedrich von Schmidt and constructed between 1872-1883. It’s imposing, right? It reminded me of something out of a horror film, probably because of its neo-gothic style, which used 30 million bricks and over 40,000 cubic meters of natural stone, it is construction. Adding to the imposing building effect, are the towers. The tallest measures 97.9 meters and it actually (you can’t see it) has a statue on it, “Iron Rathausmann” which means the iron city hall man….it’s also considered a symbol of Vienna. The building is still used as the official seat of the mayor, the city senate/provincial government meet there, and other municipal councils meet there too.

After dinner, we were exhausted and it was late, so that meant adventuring through the subway system to get back to the hotel in Margareten so that more Austria adventures could occur! Thanks for reading and stay tune for more posts about my trip to Austria.

Sources and Further Reading:

Information on the history of buildings or areas have come from a combination of pamphlets I collected at different attractions and some of Vienna’s travel websites. Those websites follow:


Prater and Wiener Riesenrad →

Rathaus →

What is this Jargon in Austria!?!?! Baroque Architecture

It’s been awhile since I consistently posted about my preservation and history adventures, hopefully I can keep my posting on target for the next few months!

So you’re probably wondering what exactly I’m planning for the next few months. For starters I want to share all the awesome things I saw on my recent vacation to Austria. A few weeks ago, I spent almost two weeks adventuring with my boyfriend, Jake, in Austria. We traveled to Vienna, Hallstatt, Salzburg, and then ended the trip in Vienna.

Jake and I in front of a MYSTERY Baroque Building. Can you guess which building it is? Answer might be down below…..

Since coming back home, I’ve been planning posts about the things we saw while on vacation- it was a lot of stuff. I wasn’t really sure where to start and I’ve researched a lot of very different things in all three locations. I figured I would start with a, “What is this Jargon!?!?” post and showcase some of the really ornate Baroque architecture that we saw in Vienna.

Baroque architecture has been described with a lot of unique adjectives: extravagant, deformed, absurd, irregular. All of these adjectives come about because of type of characteristics seen in Baroque art and architecture, which includes:

Strong curves that give a sense of movement- this can be considered either “actual”     and “implied.” So that means a curving wall vs. a statue in the pose that represents motion.

 Attempts to represent or suggest infinity. This is easy to see in Baroque paintings where the sky just seems to keep going.

Dramatic use of light and how light effects how the art and architecture is seen.

Use of bright colors and ornaments (sometimes gilded), which give an overall feeling of the theatrical and grandiose.

Richly sculpted surfaces- both interior and exterior.

The Baroque style was popular in the 17th and 18th centuries. It started in Italy at the beginning of the 17th century (the early 1600’s). It spread throughout Europe and it arrived late in Austria. The main reasons included that during the 17th century, Austria was involved in the Thirty Year’s War (1618-1648); it is considered the deadliest European religious war fought between Protestant and Catholic believers. The other ongoing war that Austria was involved in was with the Ottoman Empire starting in 1529 when the Ottoman Empire tried to lay siege to Vienna; another siege was laid on Vienna in 1683. So during that time, a lot of resources were being used to fortify the city and country to protect from the wars that were Austria was involved in. Obviously, that means not a lot of elaborate construction was happening in Austria; a lot had also been either destroyed or looted by the Ottoman Army.

Some of the most famous Austrian Baroque buildings that were constructed under the rule of Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, who was the father to Empress Maria Theresa (who was mother to Marie Antoinette, the French Queen who was beheaded during the French Revolution), all were part of the Habsburg dynasty. Some of the local Austrian architects employed by the Habsburg family included Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, his son, Joseph Emanuel, and Johanne Lukas von Hildebrandt. All three men designed buildings that Jake and I saw in Vienna. The last note about Baroque Architecture that I want to make, is that this style at times was considered propaganda for both the idea of the absolute monarch and the Church. The buildings were beyond elaborate to emphasis the importance and superiority of both the Church and ruling family.i

The following are photos of some of the Baroque buildings we saw in Vienna. If you click on any of the images, it will bring you to a “slide show” type screen. On each “slide” there is the ability to click a link to see a larger version of the image, where you can “zoom” in and see more of the details of the different buildings.

The following are the sources that I used in researching Baroque Architecture in Vienna and various links to the different buildings showcased. The links to the individual buildings, such as the National Library or the Belvedere, may need to be translated. Google Chrome, always seems to ask me if I want to translate, hopefully your browser allows the same type of thing. 

If you have any questions or comments, just share them in the comments below….


Baroque Architecture in Vienna and Europe:

Specific Buildings and Sites:

i     So the information about Baroque architecture and the style’s history in Vienna came from a combination of websites, which are all listed in the “Sources: Baroque Architecture in Vienna and Europe.” All of the sources were accessed most recently on November 11, 2016. Sorry for the not exact Chicago Style Manual citation but hopefully the information is clear and easy for you to check out and further explore Baroque Art and Architecture!

**** Answer to the MYSTERY Baroque Building****

             It’s the National Library of Austria!!!!!