Reconstruction after the Second World War: climbers
on St. Stephen’s Cathedral
Seat of the archbishop
(cardinal) of Vienna, one of the most significant buildings of
the middle European high and late Gothic period, statuesque
example of the southern German and Austrian Staffelkirche and an
emblem of Vienna. Characteristic are the stand-alone traverse
position of the towers, the integration of the Romanesque west
façade, the high Gothic choir and the striking steep roof with
ornate patterns of coloured tiles.
The first Romanesque church – instigated in Passau
(hence the patron saint martyr St. Stephanus) – is consecrated. It was
built in a quarter of new merchant settlements, incorporated into the
city’s fortifications in the second half of the 12th century (This is
the part between Singerstraße and Wollzeile, the road to Hungary.). It
lies outside, to the south-east of the oldest part of town, the Roman
fort, Vindobona. The building was in its dimensions already a sizable,
basilica-like construction, which already included the outline of the
Heathen Towers to the west when it was completed.
Restoration after a fire. The impact on the
Romanesque church is not known in detail. The Giant’s Door (Riesentor)
was rebuilt earlier, when Vienna was, for a short time the residence of
the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Subsequently, a renovation of the
western gallery (Westempore) was undertaken as well as an extension of
the Westtürme (Towers of the Heathens). It is from this period that the
carvings on the Giant’s Door, the vaults, capitals and rose windows on
the western gallery originate.
1304 - 1340
Construction of the Gothic choir, the Albertine
choir, named after the Habsburg Albrecht II. (1330 – 1358).
The Viennese bourgeoisie initially acquired the necessary land and “the
Viennese citizens testify as clients of the Gothic choir in the Zwettler
documents from 1303 and 1304”. This civic foundation was afterwards
converted into a ducal one.
The following document of indulgence – the original is written on
parchment and furnished with a pendant seal – is to some extent the
historical master document of the choir consecration and therefore
vitally important for the architectural history of St. Stephen’s.
Bishop Peter of Marchapolis awards an indulgence of
40 days, at the request of the parishioners, to everyone, who either
visits the inauguration of the choir of St. Stephen’s Church (which was
carried out on the above day in the presence of and with the authority
of Bishop Albert of Passau), or who visits the church on patronal
Laying of the foundation stone for further Gothic
reconstructions of the nave (southern and northern wall), the Singer-
and Bishop’s gate as well as both of the double chapels on the side of
the Romanesque western building. In addition, the erection of altogether
four towers was planned. But in fact only the southern transept tower
(the “St. Stephen’s Tower”) was started.
Any alterations are linked to the attempts of Duke
Rudolf IV. both to elevate Vienna to a diocese, and also to the
foundation of the University of Vienna.
Consecration of the Catharine Church also known as
the baptistery (Katharinenkapelle or “Taufkapelle”) at the eastern side
of the south tower.
Peter von Prachatitz is master builder of the
cathedral. The townspeople enable the extension of the tower through
1417 - 1430
Construction of the lower vestry.
Completion of the south tower under Hans von
1440 - 1459
Completion of the high Gothic nave.
Planning and start of construction of the north
towers by Hans Puchsbaum.
On the day of the Regensburger Hüttentag, the
Cathedral Building Lodge of St. Stephen’s in Vienna is proclaimed the
principal lodge of Central Europe.
Expansion of the upper vestry.
Under Frederick III. the diocese of Vienna is
The Barbarakapelle at the northern tower is completed
following Puchsbaum’s plans. Formerly this extension to the north tower
was called Urbanuskapelle.
Discontinuation of construction on the north tower.
It is higher than the wall of the nave but lower than the ridge height
of the choir roof. To crown the tower stump, an octagonal superstructure
was attached, which was then completed with a so-called “Welsh bonnet”
(welsche Haube) by Kaspar and Hans Saphoy in 1578. The Welsh bonnet is a
Gothic style shape of a dome.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral around 1530
Bishop Friedrich Graf Breuner initiates the change
into the Baroque era of the furnishings in St. Stephen’s Cathedral as a
demonstration of the counter-reformation. He commissions the brothers
Jakob and Tobias Pock from Constance to construct a new high altar.
Damage due to numerous cannon balls during the Second
Second wave of transformation into the Baroque era:
Gothic winged altars as well as their early Baroque replacements are
exchanged for Baroque marble altars.
The so-called catacombs are arranged to become a
The cemetery around the church is abandoned and
entirely removed in 1783.
The French Wars, too, do damage to the Cathedral
through artillery fire.
Repair work on the south tower.
Roof renovation of the Albertine choir.
1853 - 1854
Extension of the remaining gables (Wimperge) in the
roof area, only one of which was completed by Puchsbaum under Friedrich
1863 - 1864
Master builder of the cathedral, Friedrich Schmidt,
is leading the restoration of the tower dome.
Friday, 13 April: Cathedral fire during the last days
of the Second World War. The roof burns down, the vaults of the middle
choir and the southern side gate collapse. The bell Pummerin (“Boomer”)
falls to the ground and bursts. The cathedral is severely damaged.
1945 - 1952
Reconstruction of the choir roof.
The crypt is built in the catacombs under the apostle
1954 - 1965
Restoration work on the south tower.
Renovation of the Herzoggruft; construction of the
lower church and the Lapidarium (collection of stone monuments).
Completion of the dome on the north tower (Saphoy’s
bonnet) where the Pummerin is placed.
Consecration of the people’s altar (Volksaltar;
1977 - 1998
Renovation work on the north tower.
Conversion of the chancel and consecration of the new
people’s altar on 14 September.
Consecration of the cathedral organ (servants –
Mother of God receives a new position here).
Total length: outside 107.2m; inside 91.8m
Width of the nave: 38.9m
Height of the south tower: (highest tower) 136.7m
Height of the north tower: 60.6m
Height of the Towers of the Heathens (Heidentürme): 65.6m
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