St. Stephen’s Cathedral Vienna – a stunning mix of Romanesque and Gothic

Seen one cathedral, seen them all? Think again. As soon as you hop off your Vienna Bus Tour you’ll see that St. Stephen’s is different. Check out the intricately-laid roof tiles for a start. Or the two spectacular Romanesque towers on the west front. Or the massive south tower that took 65 years to build. No wonder this is such a famous and iconic building.

From 18 altars to at least 6 separate chapels, there’s plenty to mesmerise visitors inside as well. One must-see is the tomb of Emperor Frederick, which took 45 years to build. It’s made from an unusual red marble-like stone, and has 240 statues adorning it.

That roof…

Admit it, you’ve not seen anything like it. 111 metres (364 feet) long and covered by 230,000 glazed tiles. Above the choir area, the tiles form a mosaic of the double-headed eagle, symbol of the Habsburgs dynasty. The roof raises 38 metres (125 feet) above the floor and is so steep that it is cleaned by the rain alone, and is hardly ever covered by snow.

The bells, the bells

The cathedral has 23 bells. The largest hangs in the north tower, and goes by the nickname Pummerin. That means ‘Boomer’. It weighs a colossal 20,130 kilogrammes (44,380 pounds) and is the 2nd largest swinging bell in Europe. It was cast from cannons from the Turkish siege of the city. If you’re here on the 23rd April, you’ll hear it ring for 3 minutes, to commemorate the consecration of the Cathedral back in 1263.

Other interesting facts about St. Stephen’s Cathedral

  • The main entrance is known as the Giant’s Door, after a thighbone of a mastodon that hung over it for decades in the 15th century
  • Beethoven realised he was fully deaf when he couldn’t hear the ringing of St. Stephen’s bells
  • The cathedral features in a number of films, including ‘The Third Man’, and is also on the Austrian 10 cent euro coins
  • The Cathedral points towards the sunrise on the feast day of St. Stephen, the 26th December