- VIENNA PART 3 -

Churches and Cathedral (1)

LINKS to pages in the Vienna site and to the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

1 : Schloss Schönbrunn
2 : Vienna City
3 : Churches and Cathedral
4 : Hoffburg and Environs
5 : Statepark and Opera House
6 : Journey to and from Vienna
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The Michaelerkirche, dedicated to the Archangel Michael, is one of the oldest churches in Vienna and also one of its few remaining Romanesque buildings. In the course of time, there have been many alterations, resulting in its present day aspect, unchanged since 1792. This church, close to the Michaeler wing of the Hofburg, used to be the parish church of the Imperial Court (it was then called called 'Zum heiligen Michael')

Over its long history, spanning more than eight centuries, this church has incorporated a medley of architectonic styles. The church is a late Romanesque, early Gothic building dating from about 1220-1240. There is a document, stating 1221 as the foundation date of the church, but this is most probably a 14th century forgery.

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The high altar was designed in 1782 by Jean-Baptiste d'Avrange. It is decorated with the monumental alabaster Rococo sculpture "Fall of the Angels" (1782) by the Italian sculptor Lorenzo Mattielli (also known for his sculptures in the Kinsky Palace and the Hofburg). It represents a cloudburst of angels and cherubs falling from the ceiling towards the high altar. It was the last major Baroque work completed in Vienna.

The centerpiece of the high altar is "Maria Candia", a Byzantine icon of the Virgin Mary, belonging to the Cretan School of hagiography, now displayed as being carried by two archangels.

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The gilded pipe organ (1714) by Johann David Sieber is the largest Baroque organ in Vienna. It was once played by the seventeen year old Joseph Haydn in 1749.

Mozart's Requiem was performed for the first time in this church at a memorial service for the composer on 10 December 1791. As Mozart hadn't finished this work at the time of his death, only the existing part was performed. One of those who attended the "festive funerary honours" was theatre director Emanuel Schikaneder whose libretto was used by Mozart for the "The Magic Flute". ViennaMichael4.jpg



Marble statue of the Deposition of Christ (right).

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Ancient Font (left).


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The church is famous for the Michaelergruft, the immense crypt underneath the church. Noblemen and rich citizens were often buried beneath the church. This practice started in 1560 and went on until emperor Joseph II ended this in 1784. These families could buy their own family crypt. But these were very expensive. The proceeds were used to maintain the crypt in good condition.

The crypts of the aristocracy were accessible by marble slabs, marked with their coat of arms, in the church floor. The coffin of a deceased of the family could then be lowered directly into the crypt via these marble slabs.

Due to the special climatic conditions and constant temperature in the crypt, more than 4000 corpses were kept well preserved. Hundreds of mummified corpses, some still in burial finery or with a wig, are on display, some in open coffins, adorned with flowers or skulls, others decorated with Baroque paintings or with vanitas symbols. The most famous among them is Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782), the writer of the libretto "Libretto Il sogno di Scipione" , used by of Mozart in his opera The Magic Flute.

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.......also worth viewing are the excavations on the square in front of the church. Vienna's city archeologists uncovered the remains of a Roman settlement there in the years 1990 and 1991.

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The Peterskirche (English: St. Peter's Church) in Vienna is a church with a long and eventful history. The Peterskirche was transferred in 1970 by the Archbishop of Vienna Franz Cardinal König to the priests of the Opus Dei.The oldest church building (of which nothing remains today) dates back to the Early Middle Ages, and there is speculation that it could be the oldest church in Vienna. That Roman church was built on the site of a Roman encampment.The construction of the new Baroque church was begun around 1701 under Gabriele Montani, who was replaced by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt in 1703. The design was inspired by the St. Peter's Basilica of the Vatican in Rome. By 1722, most of the building was finished, and in 1733, the Peterskirche was finally consecrated to the Holy Trinity.


ViennaStPeter2a.jpg The new church was the first domed structure in baroque Vienna. Due to the confinement of available space, it was built in a very compact form, with its oval interior housing an astonishing amount of space and rectangular attachments. The church makes an overwhelming impression on the visitor with its surprisingly rich interior filled with golden stucco.

The Baroque high altar was created by Antonio Galli Bibiena and his Bolognese workshop and Martino Altomonte (1657-1745. The altarpiece portrays the Healing of the Lame by St. Peter and St. John in Jerusalem. The small painting of the Immaculate Conception above the high altar is by the 19th century artist Kupelwieser.

The gilded ornate pulpit is a magnificent sculpture by Matthias Steinl (1726) with on top of the canopy a representation of the Holy Trinity. Opposite the pulpit, there is a dramatic gold-and-silver representation of the Martyrdom of St. John of Nepomuk, sculpted by Lorenzo Mattielli. On top of it is the beautiful statue of The Mother of God.

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The turreted dome was mainly designed by Matthias Steinl, who was also responsible for the interior decoration and the pews with their fabulous cherubic heads. The frescoes were originally painted by the famous Italian Andrea Pozzo, whose paintings were removed after his death. As a result, in 1713, Johann Michael Rottmayr was able to start a completely new set. The fresco in the cupola represents the Coronation of Our Lady.

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