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!