The imposing structure of St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna is magnificent to admire and is one of many great buildings to see in the city. The cathedral is located in Stephansplatz a town square located at the geographical centre of the city. Visiting here was one of the highlights of my stops in the city.
St. Stephens Cathedral
St. Stephen’s Cathedral also called Stephansdom is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vienna and the seat of the Archbishop of the city. The current Romanesque and Gothic design of the current building was started by Duke Rudolf IV (1339–1365). The cathedral stands on top of the ruins of two earlier churches, the oldest of these churches was consecrated in 1147.
St. Stephens is considered the most important of all of the religious buildings in Vienna, St. Stephen’s Cathedral has been involved in many important events in Habsburg and Austrian history.
The roof of the cathedral is multi-coloured and made from tiles, it has become one of Vienna’s most recognizable buildings. The roof is considered ornate with its coloured tiles in a mosaic of the Habsburg symbol of the double-headed eagle and on the other is the cities coat of arms. The roof is best viewed at distance taking a step to the edges of Stephenspaltz.
Standing at 136 metres in height, St. Stephen’s Cathedral’s massive south tower is its highest point and has a big place on the Vienna skyline. It took 65 years to build, finally being completed in 1433. At the very top of the tower stands the double-eagle imperial emblem with the Habsburg-Lorraine coat of arms on its chest, surmounted by a double-armed apostolic cross, which refers to Apostolic Majesty, the imperial style of kings of Hungary. The north tower was planned to mirror the south tower, but this proved too ambitious, this tower now stands at 68 metres tall.
The main entrance to the building is called the Giant’s Door, a tympanum above the Giant’s Door depicts Christ Pantocrator flanked by two winged angels, while on the left and right are the two Roman Towers, or Heidentürme, that each stand at approximately 65 metres tall. The name for the towers derives from the fact that they were constructed from the rubble of old structures built by the Romans during their occupation of the area. The Roman Towers, together with the Giant’s Door, are the oldest parts of the church. This was a very splendid view to admire its architecture while tending to the dog outside as it isn’t dog-friendly inside.
I visited St Stephens on 2 occasions and was taken aback on both times. The first visit was on my outbound interrail trip from the UK to Brasov in December 2019. It was Christmas time and the cathedral was surrounded by a Christmas market with stalls around the edges and horse and cart rides departing from here.
We enjoyed browsing the market and had a drink of mulled wine and bottle of beer in the grounds out the back and enjoyed admiring from the outside. We had a dog in tow, the rain was falling and was very busy due to the time of year so opted not to enter but earmarked it for the return visit to Vienna.
The second visit was on a weekday in mid-January and the atmosphere was very different it was much quieter in the area and the weather was cold with blue skies. The cathedral had people about but not crowds as there was at Christmas.
We still had the dog in tow so took turns entering the building for a look around. I went in first and was very impressed, particularly with the decoration and height of the building. There were a few organs inside and was blown away with them, a friend from my childhood used to play the organ and have always been fascinated.
I imagined being at a service when inside and would bet the acoustics would be perfect. Sadly there was no service but an average amount of people inside with some rude people clamouring over people to photograph things.
I enjoyed my mooch and excited to swap places and take the dogs lead. I sat on a bench at the front got my S10 phone into the wide-angle mode and made the dog aware of some cheese in my pocket. We played a game of sit while I photograph followed by reward if he didn’t get distracted. I got some great exterior photos by my standards and was satisfied with my visit.
When I am lucky enough to have a night or 2 in Vienna in the future I intend to get the full tour and dedicate a few hours to it. I wish to learn more of the history, see the various chapels and learn more about the organs and stained glass windows.