Saturday, 3 February 2018

Vienna - Religious Icons

Stephansdom showing Roof
Vienna is magnificent – one of the great cities of the world – and we had to see it in a single day… We started the day with a walking tour that concluded at the St Stephen’s Cathedral (Stephansdom or Steffl to locals); a striking building, which houses the tomb of Friedrich III (Fritz). It’s also where Mozart married his Constanze in 1782, and less than 10 years later witnessed his funeral.
Detail in Cathedral
The Steffl suffered damage from bombing in World War II, but worse; in the final days of the war, it was almost razed to the ground. As Hitler realised the Third Reich’s days were numbered he issued an edict instructing his forces to destroy all of the infrastructure of Germany and the occupied lands, so that the Allies would take possession of only ‘ScorchedEarth’. This was meant as much as a punishment for his own people. The retreating German commandant gave orders for the Steffl to be bombed to rubble but his subordinate, Captain Klinkicht, disobeyed, simply locking the cathedral and walking away to join the retreat.

Steffl’s Altar
We entered through the Giant’s Door, named for a mammoth bone found during construction. Like so many sites in Europe though, it was jostling with visitors, forcing us to waddle along as we glimpsed the treasures within.

The Dom is spectacular but I was drawn to perhaps the even more beautiful Karlskirche (St Charles Church) and its promise of magnificent views of the city; the Baroque composer Antonin Vivaldi is buried close by and Hedy Lamarr, the film star and inventor was married here in 1933. There was one snag – as anyone that knows me or has read my blogs on Croatia –I don’t really like stairs, and I didn’t have my friend Marc to help.

Karlskirche Platform
I paid my Euros and entered the church. It’s gorgeous inside, with marble and gold statuary… …and the ceilings are adorned with frescoes, like the Sistine Chapel. But there’s this huge structure in the middle – steel scaffolding supports a large box and coming from the top of this platform, and going right up through the centre of the domed ceiling, a set of stairs.
Steps to Heaven, or...
The platform was several stories high and I headed for the elevator, positioned discretely at the side. I climbed out at the top and gingerly walked out onto the centre of the platform and started to climb the staircase – there were at least 12 sets of steps. As I climbed the first set, a family of children ran up past me, laughing without a care, but my legs were starting to quiver. Halfway up the second set, they started to feel like jelly; I was starting to panic – I looked up and said to myself “I’m not going to make it!”

I turned around and skulked back to the elevator, feeling foolish. No panorama for me. I was still unsteady as I met up with Carol in a park close by.
Art-Nouveau in St Francis of Assisi
Later we returned to the ship and I noticed a lovely church a short walk away. So, I strolled over there to find the St Francis of Assisi, or Mexican church. This was built around 1900 in an Art-Nouveau style as a memorial to the assassinated Empress Elisabeth (known as Sisi), wife of Emperor Franz Joseph 1. There’s an exquisite chapel to Elisabeth in the church.

Of course, the other religion in Vienna is the coffee house and it’s easy to see why. Even at 30°C, with a cup of coffee and a slice of sachertorte (Viennese chocolate cake), we sat and watched the crowds walk by. Before our walking tour had ended, our guide talked about the historic local coffee house culture and encouraged us to try a taste. Just then we passed a café sporting the famous Seattle mermaid logo: “Of course, you may take your coffee anywhere you wish,” she said, “ but, if I catch any of you in there, you are dead!”
St Francis of Assisi Church


  1. I spent a month in Vienna during my youth and I could easily have spent many more months absorbing the culture, music and of course the fabulous chocolate cakes.

    This is one city to which you should return. The cafes such as Demels and the Sacher Hotel are well worth a second, third or even fourth trip. Not sure what that will do to your waistline, but definitely worth your time.

    Another Vienna landmark is Grinzing, renowned amongst students for its marvellous vintages. After class we would head over to a Heuriger to discuss the lecture and to sample the wine. Of course the intellectual part of the discussion tapered off as the afternoon wore on, but it was a marvellous time in my life.

    Keep publishing your experiences. I enjoy them greatly.

    1. Thanks Arthur, I’d really like to go back there and spend more time; I guess I’ll need to diet first though!


  2. What a shame you only had a day there. I'm amazed you managed to pack so much in. Loved your photos and the tour guide's admonition!

    1. Thanks Vicky, it made for a long day, but what a wonderful city - we’d have loved to stay longer.


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