Main Index

Vienna - Three lesser known churches(1)

Ah Vienna, Wien to the locals, a wonderful imperial city, with famous architectural landmarks known the world over! The Schönbrunn Palace, the Rathaus (Town Hall), the twin-spired Votive Church and above all the cathedral of St Stephen. A visit here is a must for all enthusiasts of architecture. I was lucky to spend a long weekend here because a good friend won a holiday for two here. I hope to return, if only to see more of the splendid churches of the Austrian capital and enjoy some sunshine, which was badly lacking sadly in the time I spent here in July.

The purpose of this website and indeed these pages is to celebrate those churches which are not on every tourist's itinary. Two of these churches lie very close to the cathedral in the heart of the Altstadt. The Franciscan church lies to the south east in the Weihburggasse, and the Jesuit church lies to the north-east of the cathedral in the Sonnenfelsgasse The third church lies to the south of the Westbahnhof by the Mariahilfsgürtel in "Bezirk 15."


About halfway along the Weihburggasse (which leads off the Kärntner Strasse, the shopping street south of the cathedral square) is the church of the Franciscans, dedicated to St Hieronymus. The exterior is rather unimpressive, its main façade an odd mixture of Gothic and Renaissance features and a collection of small towers and turrets flank the east end of the church. The church was rebuilt 1603-11. The west porch is fully baroque and of course later (1742) and the west front hints at the interior to come.

The interior of the church reflects the odd merger of forms. Most of the church is of classical form but the upper parts of the church and above all the vault still show the last blooming of gothic. The fittings include six side altars in ornate recesses and a very fine High Altar of 1696 by Andrea Pozzi. The latter has an illusionary painting of a recess. In fact it is flat and hides the apse (with Gothic windows) behind where a magnificent organ case of 1642 with painted doors is placed.

In the first bay on the north side is the St Sebastian's Altarpiece. The arch to this reredos, the least decorative of the six side altars, and the window above is partly framed by a stone curtain. The above picture is an attempt at art, catching this curtain reflected in the highly polished pillar that supports the west gallery. This is the only bay treated this way, and was the first time I had seen such a sumptuous and realistic looking curtain as a decoration. (I was to see a couple of further examples on holiday in Bavaria in September, more on which later when the photos are back!)