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Quick Facts on the Stephansdom

Short URL
gohist.co/s/319135
Names
St. Stephen's Cathedral Stephansdom Stephansdom, Vienna
Address
Stephansplatz Vienna, Vienna State
Location
Vienna  locality
Vienna State  state
Austria  country
Europe  continent
Main date(s)
14th C
Coordinates
48.208409° N, 16.373111° E
Admission
Free
Phone
513 76 48

Interior

The interior is packed with interesting things to see, including many important artworks. One of the greatest treasures is the Wiener Neustadt altarpiece (1447) in the left chapel of the choir. Richly gilded and painted, it depicts the Virgin Mary between St. Catherine and St. Barbara.

The stone pulpit (1510-50) in the middle of the nave bears the images of four Latin church fathers: Ambrose, Jerome, Gregory and Augustine, all full of personality. A rare self-portrait of the artist (Anton Pilgram) is under the stairs, looking out a window with his sculptor's compass. This marks the transition point into the Renaissance, when artists began to be famous instead of anonymous.

The pulpit's railing is covered in interesting symbols: the lizards are animals of light, the toads are animals of darkness, and the "Dog of the Lord" at the top protects the sermon from their influence. Wheels with three parts (the Trinity) roll up, while wheels with four parts (the four seasons, representing mortal or worldly life) roll down.

Also of note is the unusual 17th-century tomb of Emperor Frederick III in the Apostles' Choir, which depicts hideous creatures trying to wake up the emperor.

Holly Hayes
November 18, 2011

Exterior

The cathedral is an impressive Gothic edifice of dark stone with a colorful tiled roof and a north tower rising to 450 feet (135m) named Alter Steffl, "Old Steve." Originally built between 1359 and 1433, it was reconstructed after severe war damage. A climb of 343 spiral steps provides sweeping view of the city from the top.

The north tower (Nordturm) was never finished to match its partner, but was given a Renaissance crown in 1529. The top of this tower, also with fine views and a look at the Pummerin bell, is reached by an elevator ride. The Pummerin bell is one of the largest bells in the world, cast from a cannon captured from the Turks in 1683. It rings out over the city on New Year's Eve.

The "O5" carved into the stone outside the cathedral's massive front door has important historical significance. The 5 stands for the fifth letter of the alphabet, E. When added to the O it makes OE, the abbreviation for Österreich (Austria). It was a covert sign of resistance to the Nazi annexation of Austria.

Holly Hayes
November 18, 2011

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