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© Verlag Christian Brandstätter
Image: The outlining lines of the Virgilkapelle at the Stephansplatz
© Verlag Christian Brandstätter - Duncan J. D. Smith
The Virgilkapelle is an underground crypt next to the Stephansdom in Vienna. It is rectangular in form (approximately 6 meters by 10), with six niches, and today lies approximately 12 meters beneath the Stephansplatz.

The history of the chapel is not entirely clear. On architectural grounds, it is dated to the early 13th century. At this time, Frederick the Quarrelsome (1230-1246), the last Duke of the House of Babenberg, was the ruler of Vienna. It has been hypothesized that the Duke, who would have liked to have established Vienna as an episcopal see, had the crypt built for St. Coloman of Stockerau, who was to be the patron of the new diocese. However, the preserved chronicles do not mention the building, which has given rise to the speculation that it is the remnant of a failed project.

In the year 1307, a chapel of the Viennese family Chrannest is mentioned. The chapel was said to have multiple altars, one of which was dedicated to St. Vergilius of Salzburg. In the Middle Ages, the Stephansdom was encricled by a large cemetery. For consecrations and Requiem masses there was a single small chapel, which was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene (the Magdalenskapelle). The Virgilkapelle lay directly underneath underneath this chapel, to which it was connected by a shaft.

In 1732, the cemetery around the Dom was closed. The Magdalenskapelle burned in 1781, and was not rebuilt (presumably as, without a cemetery, there was no need for a funeral chapel). The Virgilkapelle was filled in and fell into oblivion. In 1973 the chapel was rediscovered during construction of the Vienna U-Bahn. Today a mosaic showing the outlines of the Virgilkapelle is visible on the Stephansplatz. The chapel itself has survived with hardly any damage, and provides the visitor with an excellent glance into the world of the Middle Ages.
© Verlag Christian Brandstätter
The Virgilkapelle may be entered directly from the U-Bahn Station Stephansplatz. It is possible to look into the chapel from above. A collection of historical ceramics has been installed at the entrance to the chapel itself.
Image: The underground Virgilkapelle, with
painted Byzantine cross.

© Verlag Christian Brandstätter
    Duncan J. D. Smith
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