A model of medieval architecture
St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom) – is the stone landmark of Vienna and stands – as it should – in the very centre of the city. As a prime example of mediaeval architecture it’s not only beautiful to look at from outside and inside; it’s also deep (the catacombs) and tall. The origins of the cathedral reach back to the year 1137. When it was completed in 1433, the south tower of the church was the tallest building in Europe, and the Viennese were very proud of this fact: up until the end of the monarchy no church tower in the Austro-Hungarian Empire was permitted to top the venerable “Steffl”.
“As long as the Steffl has scaffolding, the city’s doing okay.” Viennese saying. The Stephansdom has to be constantly maintained, and this has been the responsibility of the Dombauhütte (cathedral workshop) since the Middle Ages. Every year the residents of Vienna raise about 2.2 million Euros for the renovation of their Steffl.
Unfortunately you can’t climb to the very top of St. Stephen’s Cathedral
but nevertheless, if you can make it up the 343 steps, the 72-metre-high Türmerstube (tower room) is open to you. From there, protected from the elements, you can experience Vienna spread out at your feet: Kärntnerstrasse and the Graben, the Viennese Giant Ferris Wheel and the Leopoldsberg mountain, and in between a maze of streets and alleyways. The elaborately-patterned roof of the cathedral with its 230,000 tiles can also be clearly seen: one side is inlayed with the Austrian eagle, the other with the Vienna coat of arms, while the nave displays the characteristic zigzag pattern.
Originally there were to be two high towers
the unfinished northern tower is shrouded in numerous legends, usually involving the devil. More probably it was financial reasons which prevented it from being built. The 86-metre-high tower is nevertheless worth a visit, as it is here that the Pummerin hangs, with over 20 tons the largest bell in Austria. Every year at midnight on December 31st it rings in the New Year.
After your descent, the Manner-Shop a few steps further on is worth a stop: Josef Manner opened his store in 1890 at this address, and from the beginning decorated his legendary Manner Schnitten (Neapolitan wafers) with a picture of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
Text: Kornelia Kopf, Fotos: Christine Wurnig