Oaxaca mural

Oaxaca mural

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Five Churches and an Opera House

After my walk around the center of Vienna the evening before, on Thursday I was eager to do some serious exploration of the sights in this city.  I was up early, and took the U-Bahn back to Stephansplatz... the very heart of the city.  I was at St. Stephen's Cathedral at 8:30.  Supposedly the Cathedral does not admit visitors until 9:00, but they opened the ticket stand before that.  I was fortunate because I had the church almost to myself.  When I left, the tourists were lined up for tickets.

The columns which are like giant trees holding up the vaulted ceiling are adorned with an army of life-sized carvings of saints.

To the right of the main altar is the elaborate tomb of Hapsburg Emperor Frederick III who was instrumental in securing St. Stephen's the status of a cathedral in the 15th century.

To the other side of the main altar is a wooden triptych that was commissioned by Frederick III in 1447.

In the center, the high altar is a later work of Baroque style with black marble pillars.  The large painting depicts the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

The pulpit is a masterpiece of Gothic stone carving.

The sculptor of the pulpit included a self portrait of himself peering from a window beneath the steps to the pulpit.

The baptistry is where Mozart's children were baptized.

After visiting the interior, I decided to climb to the top of Cathedral's 450 foot high North Tower.  The Hapburgs had decreed that no other church tower in their empire should be taller.

Climbing the 343 steps to the top was one way of burning a few calories as well as having a spectacular view of the city.  Notice the distinctive tile roof of the Cathedral.

The city has numerous churches that are outstanding examples of Gothic or Baroque architecture.

St. Peter's Church was built in 1733 and it has one of the most impressive Baroque interiors in the city.

The Augustinian Church has a Gothic interior, and in the crypt of the church are urns containing the hearts or Hapsburg rulers.  (I didn't bother seeing them.)

St. Michael's, located near the Hofburg Palace, is another attractive church.

The last church that I visited was St. Charles Church.  It was built in 1713 to give thanks when the city was spared from the bubonic plague.

This church is unique in that there is an elevator that enables you to see close-up the paintings on the ceiling.

In addition to all those churches, I also visited one of Vienna's temples to culture.  Here, opera is almost a religion.  The Vienna "Staatsoper"  (State Opera), founded in 1869 during the reign of Emperor Franz Josef,  is one of the great opera companies of the world.  It gives more than 360 performances each year (but, unfortunately for me, is closed in August), and mounts between 50 and 60 productions each year.  It is possible to see a different opera each night of the week.  Although I was not able to attend a performance, I was able to take a tour of the building.

The grand opera house was largely destroyed during World War II, but enough of the exterior survived to reconstruct it as it originally was.

Only a few sections of the interior survived the war.  The elegant lobby and grand staircase remain as they originally were. 

Also surviving the war was the private reception room of Emperor Franz Josef... although he was not a frequent operagoer.

The rest of the interior, including the auditorium, had to be completely rebuilt, and was done in a more modern style.

The spot in the center marked by the Hapsburg eagle was the emperor's box.  Today it is reserved for visiting dignitaries.  If it is not being used, you can buy tickets in the royal box for a hefty price.  On the other hand for just a few euros you can purchase standing room tickets, and some of the standing room areas have superb sight lines and acoustics.

In front of the seats are small screens which give translations of the opera being performed  in a number of languages.  This will sound like boasting, but I happened to recognize the lines that were on the screen in front of me.  They come from the opera Aida.  "You are the queen of my thoughts, you are the splendor of my life" from Radames' aria "Celeste Aida".

We then had a chance to go backstage.  The area is enormous, and there is a lot of equipment involved for the elaborate sets and lighting.

Our English-speaking guide was excellent, and she obviously had enormous pride in one of the great cultural institutions of her city.


  1. I read this after I posted my comment on the previous post. I like that we both choose the word "distinctive" to describe the roof of St. Stephan's. :-)

    1. well, great minds think alike... or use the same words. :-)