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Vienna - Three lesser known churches(3)

Following the Gothic and Baroque splendours of the City Centre, together with the monuments and palaces, the city spread outwards to eventually embrace Schönbrunn palace and its grounds. Like London, the railway from the rest of Austria and beyond had to arrive on the fringes of the city. Near one of these, the Westbahnhof (Vienna West), is a stunning 19th Century church which has to be seen to be believed.

Maria vom Siege (Fünfhauser Pfarrkirche)

What can you say about this truly unusual church? In plan it is an octagon from which radiate in ALL directions lower side chapels, choir, transepts and west gallery. The west entrance bay is further embellished by diagonally placed towers which turn octagonal and into a forest of pinnacles and spires, and over the cental space rises a colossal Gothic dome at first octagonal too but then turning into 24-sided top stage (nearly round) to carry the dome which is topped by a tall flèche. The print above is taken from the Centenary brochure of 1975 and is an accurate representation of the church today.

All this makes you desperate to see inside. I tried every door - locked! Sadly I turned away, only to see a lady looking at me curiously from a doorway in the square. I risked all, and my German, to ask if she knew where I might find the key. She had it!! We entered by a small door to the (ritual) north of the chancel, and opening another door I was soon inside the church. Film running out, and an impossible play of light and dark, varying heights, a sight that a still camera cannot capture. I reproduce two pictures below that gives a flavour of the church, a mere hint at its beauty and decoration.

This view shows the traditional view from the west end to the high altar. Banded brick, arches of various heights, the odd bays radiating off in the diagonals with clerestory windows! And above all, which you cannot see, the huge lantern dome. The view below shows the interior looking up towards the south-west (ritual) corner of the church.

Facts, the church was begun in 1865 to the designs of Friedrich Schmidt and completed in 1875. He also designed the new Rathaus in the City Centre and the church directly opposite the Westbahnhof ["Zur Unbefleckten Empfängnis Mariä" - the Lazaristenkirche 1860-2 and a much more usual Gothic revival church with an imposing central tower and spire]. This church has been lovingly restored to its original condition in recent years, in co-operation with the City. Incidentally the church is usually open in the mornings, so my "lady" told me!

page updated 8th March 2000