St. Stephen's Cathedral
St. Stephen's Cathedral
st stephen's cathedral vienna
This iconic cathedral at the heart of Vienna is quite literally the centre point of the city. The architecture is a wonderful juxtaposition of different styles and the view from the towers is fabulous. What’s not to like!
Thanks to its central location and fascinating history, Stephansdom is a great starting point for exploring historic Vienna.
Don’t be put off by the many appeals for extra donations. You pay to get in, so it’s up to you whether you want to give a little extra towards the cathedral’s upkeep.
The view from the north tower at sunset is really stunning.
Last Modified: 15.11.2022 | Céline & Susi
st. stephen's cathedral
Bike TourEUR 37
Bike, Guide in EN/DE or NL, Duration: 3 hours, not for children under the age of 12 yearsbook tour
Admission to St. Stephen's Cathedral, access to the north towers and catacombs, the Vienna Cathedral Museum + Audio guidebuy ticket
Food TourEUR 115
Tour in English, Duration: 4 hours, Starting Point St. Stephen (without admission) Food and Drinksbook tour
at a glance
Entrance to pray
Monday – Saturday: 6.00 a.m. – 10.00 p.m
Sundays and public holidays: 7 a.m. – 10 p.m
Touristic visiting times
Monday – Saturday: 9.00 – 11.30 a.m. and 1.00 – 4.30 p.m
Sundays and public holidays: 1.00 p.m. – 4.30 p.m
North Tower (Pummerin)
daily, 9.00 a.m. – 5.30 p.m
What is there
Vienna’s iconic cathedral stands at the very heart of the city. It’s a cliché I know, but also absolutely true! Look at a map of Vienna and you’ll see the historic Ringstraße all the way around the city centre with Stephansdom right in the very middle.
At first glance, the cathedral’s limestone walls, blackened by pollution over the years, don’t look very appealing. But don’t be disheartened! On closer inspection, you’ll see the façade has many beautiful details. Look really closely and you might even spot St Stephen – the cathedral’s namesake and patron saint of horses – with a book, stones and palm leaves.
Many more portraits of St Stephen can also be found inside the cathedral, including in the medieval glass windows, on the Wiener Neustädter Altar and on various pillars in the chancel and nave.
All these details are certainly very interesting but what makes Stephansdom really special is the architecture, in particular its gothic nave and magnificent baroque high altar. The wonderful juxtaposition of these two architectural styles is truly stunning!
Stephansdom welcomes more than 6 million visitors every year. For many, the gothic cathedral is the first stop on their tour of Vienna, not just because of its impressive architecture but also because of the enormous catacombs beneath its floors where many of the Habsburgs are buried.
The cathedral’s other big draw is its towers. Stephansdom has four towers in total, two of which (the north and south towers) are open to visitors. The south tower is the taller of the two at around 136.5 m and known affectionately by locals as Steffl or ‘Little Stephan’. The Viennese love nicknames, so much so that the bell in the north tower even has two – the Pummerin and also the Stimme Österreichs which means the ‘Voice of Austria’. At some 68 m tall, the north tower is much smaller. It also has a lift to take you to the top, where you can enjoy a stunning view over the rooftops of Vienna and right down onto the roof of Stephansdom itself. To get to the top of the south tower, you have to climb the 343 steps yourself (although it is currently closed to visitors).
The area around Stephansdom is pedestrianised and popular with shoppers who come to browse the fashion stores on Kärntner Straße and exclusive boutiques on the Graben. The streets and alleyways around the cathedral are also home to many top restaurants, renowned Viennese coffee shops and wonderful pubs and bars.
st. stephen's cathedral
A BIT OF HISTORY
In 1147, a Roman church dedicated to St. Stephen was founded on the site where Stephansdom stands today. The original church underwent many renovations, but remnants of it can still be seen in the west façade’s Heidentürme (Towers of the Heathens) and Riesentor (Giant Gate), which forms the main entrance to the cathedral. In 1359, Habsburg Duke Rudolf IV laid the cornerstone for the cathedral’s gothic makeover close to where the south tower stands today. This work continued throughout the 14th and 15th centuries and included the addition of the gothic nave, chancel and side chapels. The south tower (the taller one) was completed in 1433 by the architect Hans Prachatitz. Construction of the north tower followed, beginning in 1467, but the original plan for a two-tower façade, with both towers the same height, was never realised and the north tower was left uncompleted.
It wasn’t until a century later that a roof was finally added to the tower! Today the north tower is home to the Pummerin, an enormous 21 tonne bell that was originally cast from cannons seized from the Ottomans after they were defeated in the Battle of Vienna. The original bell was destroyed during the 1945 fire when it crashed through the roof to the floor. The bell you see today is therefore the one recast from the remains of its predecessor.
Stephansdom survived many troubled periods, including wars and Turkish sieges, relatively unscathed. But during the Second World War it was almost completely destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt by an enthusiastic team of volunteers and today is seen by many Austrians as a symbol of recovery. By 1948, the restoration work was already all but complete and Stephansdom was fully reopened in 1952. It costs around EUR 2.2 million every year to repair, conserve and maintain the cathedral and protect it against environmental impacts.
Despite being one of the top 10 attractions in Vienna and welcoming scores of visitors from around the world every day, its core purpose as a place of worship has not been forgotten, with seven services held every day other than Sunday, when there are ten!
Official website of Stephansdom (DE): www.stephansdom.at
Text and image rights: © Céline Mülich, 2020 – 2022
With the support of Susanne Vukan