Tag Archive: Church


On a nice friday we traveled outside of Vienna to Klosterneuburg and then to castle Kreuzenstein with our professor.

Klosterneuburg is both the site of a palace and a church. The church was built by St. Leopold III of the Babenburg dynasty. He married a woman named Agnes. There is a legend that says on their marriage day, Agnes’ veil was swept away and Leopold promised to build a church wherever it had landed. Eventually, he found the veil and built a church (with his wife’s money) and it became known as Klosterneuburg.

At the time it was built this church was the largest in the country. Klosterneuburg was also the capital of Austria until it was changed to Vienna by Henry II.

To the right of the church is the Baroque palace, which was the residence of Habsburg Charles VI, the last male Habsburg. Charles wanted to style his palace after one that he had seen in Spain and he had a plan to make it three times larger than it is now. Sadly, he died after only a third of it was finished and his daughter, Maria Theresa, wanted nothing to do with the palace, so construction stopped. Maria Theresa prefered Schönbrunn over Klosterneuburg.

The right tower was rebuilt in Gothic because it was damaged, while the left tower was rebuilt in Gothic, but during Baroque times. This is why the stones are different.

The inside of the church was redone in Baroque. Below is just an example of the glass windows lining the corridors outside the church. It is over 600 years old.

An organ made of pewter, which means it’s not used on a regular basis and there is another organ in the church used for everyday occasions.

Also in the church is the Verdun Altar, which was originally placed in front of the pulpit, but after a fire it was moved into the monastery. It now sits below St. Leopold III’s remains. His wife is also buried there with seven of their children, overall they had 17.

After our tour of the church, we made our way back into the Palace, which was quite impressive.

The dining room. The room is surrounded in 300 year old tapestries.

Each room had a giant stove or oven in the corner, which served as a heater and could keep a room warm for weeks with just one use.

One of the many sitting rooms.

The throne room.

Inside the palace is also the treasury. The most important treasure being the crown of Austria.

One of the more interesting treasures was a tusk, which had been carved into 170 figures.

After our tour of Klosterneuburg we traveled about an hour to Kreuzenstein, a medieval castle. It was probably one of the coolest castles I’ve seen and the kind of castle everyone pictures when they think of knights, the Middle Ages, and princesses.

This castle is owned by the Wilczak family. The original owner Count Johann Nepomuk Wilczek was a very rich man and decided that he wanted to rebuild the old medieval castle, which had been almost completely destroyed during the 30 Years War. Although the castle was originally medieval, Wilczek added some personal touches, which would not have originally been in the castle. He added in a library and also a small chapel.

We were lucky enough to get a tour inside the castle, but our professor says it’s become harder to do, because a book was stolen from the library. This also meant that we were not allowed to take photos inside the various rooms. Only the things outside were allowed to be photographed.

Because Wilczak was so rich, he funded his own expedition to the North Pole and has an island in the North Pole named after him. He didn’t hesitate in adding his own personal touches to the castle, by purchasing different things from all over the world that he found appealing.

Another fun fact about the castle is that part of the film The Three Musketeers (the 1993 version) was filmed here.

The outside of the castle was impressive, especially since it had a drawbridge and a moat. The moat was once filled with water, but now it’s been grown over.

A different view of the moat and drawbridge, which even had the metal gate with spikes. The smaller door to the right was used as an entrance after the larger bridge was drawn up. It also made it easier to dispatch anyone attacking the castle.

A catapult which was used to lay siege to the castle in Salzburg.

To the left is a replica of a torture device, luckily it has never been used.

Looking towards the entrance to the castle. This little corridor was my favorite and I could just imagine people walking up and down, going about their daily lives. I especially liked the little platform to the left and the creepy vines growing up the tower on the right.

Before entering the castle we visited the armory, which had a vast array of swords, armor, spears, lances, maces… anything you could possibly think of was there! The collection also included crossbows, which essentially brought an end to the time of the knights, because they could no longer fight their opponents with swords. There were also weapons of the farmers. Pitchforks, scythes, and our professor’s favorite weapon the Morningstar. Which was named as such, because it came from the east, where the sun rises. This weapon was essentially a metal ball, with four-inch long spikes protruding from all sides.

We were able to try on the chain mail that a knight would have worn. I only tried on the headpiece, but it was really heavy! Addison tried on both the head piece and the shirt. He looked quite official with the vast array of weapons behind him. Just the chain mail could way 50-60 kilograms or 110-130 pounds! Think about carrying around that weight all the time and then add on the weight of the rest of the armor. I don’t know how they moved!

Inside the castle we visited the chapel, which was very small, but with enough room for a crypt, where the family is buried. One of the reasons Wilczek built it was because he needed a place to bury his family.

We also got a tour of a bedroom, which had a chair-like bed in it. The mattress was sitting halfway up, because people believed that if you slept lying down you were dead and it was a sort of superstitious idea. They also had a board hanging on the side of the bed, so that they could write down any prophetic dreams they had during the night.

One of the rooms we saw was basically the hunting room. It had a giant stuffed boar, which I was not really a fan of, but it also had a fake horse head, with the horn of a narwhal attached. It was supposed to be a unicorn that Wilczek had hunted.

In the next room were a number of tables and one corner was called Wilhelm’s Corner, because it was where Emperor Wilhelm sat when he visited the castle for its grand opening.

Lastly, we were taken to the medieval kitchen, where many of the cookware is original. The table in the kitchen is so large that the entire room had to be built around it, rather than bringing it in after construction.

On our way out of the kitchen we ran across the owner of the castle, also a Wilczek. He was showing his family or friends around the place too.

One of the many cute doors leading into the castle. We only got to visit a few of them.

Like I said before, much of the castle was reconstructed, but it was also adjusted so that it fit Wilczek’s taste. He added in pieces of architecture he liked from all over the world. Windows from Hungary, wood from Germany, stone from Italy.

The section of the wall with the arches below comes from Italy.

Below is part of a church, taken from Slovakia. It is also one of the reasons the archway into the courtyard is so large. Normally, in a medieval castle, it would be much smaller so that it would not be easy for enemies to enter the courtyard and therefore take the castle.

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St. Stephens is a central point in Vienna. There is nowhere you can go in the first district and not see the South Tower looming above the rest of the buildings. Therefore, I thought I would dedicate an entire post to St. Stephens Cathedral.

St. Stephens was built in 1137, during the rule of the Babenbergers. Originally it was built in the Romanesque style, but later it was rebuilt in the Gothic style and also Baroque.

I’ve visited St. Stephens a number of times already, simply because there is so much to do in the area. St. Stephens sits right in the middle of a huge shopping street called Kärntnerstraße. All around the cathedral are clothes shops, food stands, restaurants, ice cream, and always plenty of tourists. On a nice day, I’ve often walked from the Institute past St. Stephens and eventually I’m only one U-Bahn station away from my apartment.

The front of St. Stephens.

The lower part of the front is Romanesque, but the upper part, including the small towers, is Gothic.

Inside of St. Stephens, much of the front section is Gothic. It’s easy to tell, because of the intricate details carved from stone.

I love the criss-crossing lines on the ceiling. I think they add so much character to the building and make the ceiling look like it was put together like a puzzle.

The pillar supporting the pulpit. It was like a maze of interlocking pillars filled with small swirls and tiny sculptures. I can’t even begin to image the skill and steady hand it must have taken to create such a masterpiece.

Below is the architect, named Anton Pilgram. He can be seen just under the pulpit, peeking out from a small window.

The main altar of St. Stephens. It was redone in Baroque.

To the right of the central nave is Friedrich III. He was Holy Roman Emperor and also Archduke of Austria. He was the last emperor to be crowned in Rome by the Pope. Friedrich III, along with his son Maximilian I, gained a lot of territory for empire through marriage. Also buried in St. Stephens are, Prince Eugene of Savoy, Rudolf IV, and some victims of the Black Plague.

St. Stephens has two towers, but there is a huge difference between them. The South Tower is much higher than the North Tower. In 1359 Rudolf I * ordered the construction of the South Tower. It instantly became a symbol of Vienna. Later on the construction of the North Tower was initiated, but it was never finished.

Legend goes that one of the masons, working on St. Stephen’s North Tower, was in love with the architect’s daughter. Her name was Maria. The mason asked her father for his approval, but the father said that the mason could only marry Maria if he could make the North Tower just as high and as beautiful as the South Tower in one year. As the year progressed the mason realized he would never complete the tower in time and so he made a deal with the devil. The devil promised to help if the mason didn’t speak any holy names. The mason agreed, but one day, in excitement, he called his love’s name. Therefore, he was struck on the head by a scaffold and the North Tower was never finished.

In reality, most people believe that the architect just ran out of money, but the legend sounds cooler.

 The South Tower

The North Tower

Anyone can get to the top of both towers. From what I’ve heard, the North Tower has an elevator, but I decided to brave the South Tower and climb all the way to the top, step by step. Annika and Addison also came with me and together we made the climb.

It was actually a very intense workout. The staircase was always spiraling to the right, which made for a dizzying climb and the steps weren’t large enough for my entire foot to step on. The other tourists climbing the tower made for a difficult climb too. I often had to stop and squish against the wall so that others could pass and for some reason there were a lot of people who thought it would be a good idea to bring ALL their shopping bags up to the top with them. It wasn’t.

Climbing all that way was very claustrophobic. The stairs never seemed to end, there were hardly any windows and our voices echoed off the walls, making it hard to tell if there were people above or below. At one point, I felt like I had been climbing forever and that I would have to keep climbing forever. It was a little nerve-racking.

Our first resting point.

We emerged from the stairs, into a room full of windows. I’m assuming a bell used to hang there, but the room was empty except for a few gargoyles. Off to the right the stairs continued to the top.

The view was worth the exhausting climb. One of the things I love about St. Stephens is the tiled roof. I’ve never seen anything like it on a church before and I think the zig-zags are really fun and bright.

The Prater ferris wheel.

From St. Stephens it probably takes 15 minutes to get to the Prater by U-Bahn.

One of the decorations on top of the church. It looks like it might be the symbol for the Habsburgs, the two-headed eagle.

The roof of the church had a row of these cute little windows.

Climbing down the tower was just as hard, but mostly because I got really dizzy. I was constantly turning in a circle, but to my eyes it looked like I was never getting anywhere, because the steps never changed.

The back section of the roof has tiles that create the two-headed eagle of the Habsburgs.

The back of St. Stephens. This is where all the carriages wait for tourists.

Detail on the North Tower. You can also go to the top of this tower, this one has an elevator, so there’s no need to climb.

There are a number of gargoyles all along the outside of St. Stephens. Some of them are still in really good shape, while others might be missing a head. Many of the statues from St. Stephens and the original glass windows are now in the Wien Museum.

On one of our excursions our professor said that St. Stephens is always being worked on and there’s hardly ever a time when you can see the entire building. Right now the South Tower is being spiffed up, so much of the bottom half is covered. Often you can see workers up on the very top of the steeple.

EDIT 10/17/12: I’m still learning about all the Habsburgs and since they’re all named basically the same thing sometimes I get confused. Rudolf I was the first Habsburg ruler, but Rudolf IV was actually the one called “The Founder”.

EDIT 11/10/12:

Addison and I decided to visit the crypt under St. Stephens, which is a guided tour only. The first half we were in the “new” part of the crypt, which had the sarcophagi of Rudolf IV. Many of the Habsburg’s organs are also kept in the crypt separate from their bodies, which are in the Imperial Crypt just a few blocks away.

We then headed further down into the ground to the older part of the crypt, which is where victims of the plague are buried. We walked down a long dark tunnel until we came to the first open room. The room we stood in was completely surrounded in stone, and during WW II it was used as a bomb shelter. The creepy thing is that it was once a room that held bodies and in the floor were still some bones that had been ground into the dirt.

There was a small room just to the left of that, which we could see through an grated window. In the room were piles of bones and the last remnants of some coffins. People actually used to pay to be buried in this room, but over time their coffins rotted away and now it’s mostly bones.

Next we made our way past an open hole in the ground where they threw the bodies of plague victims. It astounds me that they buried people right in the center of the city. The bones completely filled the hole and were beginning to pile up to the opening. Last we came to another room, where they had begun to stack the bones making a wall of skeletons, so that more people could be buried there.

It was an interesting, yet morbid tour.

Day 16: Vienna by Night

Sometimes the best photographs are the ones that you never planned to take.

When I set out to take photos I had some important buildings I wanted to visit, but along the way we got lost and found some even better secrets.

The first place we stopped at was the Parliament building, which I ride by everyday while going to school. For a week this place has been calling my name, but I haven’t had the time to visit it yet. Everyday it’s covered in tourists so going at night was a great idea.

The ramp up to the main entrance is my favorite, with a large curving road on both sides. I wish my driveway was this impressive.

After the parliament building Addison and I headed over to Hofburg Palace, the Habsburg’s winter residence. The palace is just as large and impressive as Schönbrunn, however it is more dark and cold. It was built to intimidate and feel like an important place for work, rather than a happy summer home.

Instead of going back out onto the main street (Ringstraße), we decided to go somewhere random, so we followed a group of well dressed men and women through the left side of the palace. This led us to a smaller courtyard with a clocktower and some more statues. While the finely dressed couples went inside the palace, we went out the back and ended up on a random street with little shops and Roman ruins buried in the ground.

Leaving the palace.

The ruins that were out in the middle of the square were called Ausgrabungen Michaelerplatz. They were part of a Roman legionary fortress. Now the bottom floor is covered in glittery coins that have been thrown down.

One of my favorite things about Vienna is the cobblestone streets. They remind me of an older time and although they can make it hard to walk its worth it to hear the clip-clopping of horse hoofs coming down the road.

We took a smaller road off to the left to see where it would take us and ended up by an old church, called the Minoriten-Kirche.

The following photo is probably my favorite so far. If I don’t take anymore good pictures this entire semester, it’s ok, because this one was worth it.

I love this picture too, mostly because of the cute old couple that was walking down the hall as I took it. They look so alone standing down there at the end of the hallway, but they have each other.

After taking photos of the church we decided to head back towards the main street. We wanted to get photos of the Opera House all aglow, but for some reason the lights of the actual Opera weren’t on. It still made for a pretty sight.

After the visiting the Opera House it was getting late so we parted ways and I headed back to my apartment. Along the way I had to stop at the bridge I cross to get to the Institute and take one last picture of the Donaukanal.

It was a great night of photography and it doesn’t feel like I was at Schönbrunn just that morning!