Get Me to the Church on Time

It hadn’t occurred to me, though it should have, that Austria is a Catholic country (75% of the population). You know, the Habsburgs were the Holy Roman Emperors, allied with the Roman Catholic Church – that should have been a tip-off.

But we were a little surprised to find out that everything was closed Thursday because it was Ascension Day, a Christian holiday, which in Austria is a National Holiday (as it appears to be also in several other European countries, including Germany where it is Father’s Day, too).

A little before noon, we heard music out on the street – a procession featuring a brass band and a number of people in traditional dress, playing and singing hymns proclaiming the ascension of Jesus into heaven forty days after Easter.

So, I thought this would be a good opportunity to give you a sampling of Vienna’s beautiful cathedrals and churches, starting with the biggie, St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom), the seat of the Archbishop of Vienna, with its multi-colored tile roof…

… and 450 foot tall south tower, shown below, completed in 1433. We haven’t been inside yet and plan to climb up the south tower when we go back to do so.

When we were at the Wien Museum Karlsplatz the other day, we learned that most of the original statutary and stained glass of the Stephansdom had been removed to the Museum for safe-keeping and those that were still in the cathedral were mostly replicas. So, here are the real McCoys:

Not far away is St. Peter’s (Peterskirche), a local parish church, thought to possibly be the site of the oldest church in Vienna, perhaps dating back to the reign of Charlemagne around the year 800 A.D. At any rate, the current church was built in 1701-1722.

Here’s the pulpit and alter.

On the other side of the old city is the Church of the Jesuits (Jesuitenkirche), built 1623-1627, immediately adjacent to the old University of Vienna buildings where Beethovan’s 7th Symphony premiered (in the University, not in the church).

Although having a relatively plain exterior, the inside of this church is quite lavish.

Slightly outside of the Ringstraße and adjacent to the Wien Museum near Karlsplatz is another parish church, St. Charle’s (Karlskirche), built in 1716-1737 at the behest of Emperor Karl (Charles) VI, commemorating the victims of the Plague of 1713. We contented ourselves with just admiring this one from outside.

Another cathedral that we want to see inside, but haven’t yet, is the Votive Church (Votivkirche) which is on the Ringstraße, next to the Rathaus, the Vienna City Hall.

Completed in 1879, this church was financed by a Empire-wide campaign to thank God for having spared the life of Emperor Franz Joseph from an assassination attempt in 1853 by a Hungarian nationalist.

The day we stopped by, the church was under renovation (behind the Coca Cola sign) and closed to tourists.

Not to be denied, however, we saw two couples hustling over to the Rathaus to get married, this one with photographer in hand.

But, this couple wasn’t going to mess around; she told him, “get me to the church on time.”

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