Old Vienna: The Stephansdom

If you’ve been to the Stephansdom, you’ve been to Vienna.  It’s located at the centre of city and is a landmark you cannot and shouldn’t miss. Not ever.  Some liken it to the “soul” of Vienna and I must say I agree.  It is to Vienna like what the Eiffel Tower is Paris.  It is a symbol that once you see it, you know that you have arrived in Vienna.

My first impression of this awe-inspiring Cathedral is implanted firmly in my mind as if I had first seen it yesterday.  (Actually, its been a good couple of years).  As in any european city, the tourist spot is almost always at the old town square.  The ones in France and Belgium had their own characteristics with buildings around a square as did the ones in Italy.  Vienna was different.

The State Opera House was my start and from there I walked down Karntner Strasse.  It was a beautiful wide cobbled stone road.  Cars are forbidden in this pedestrian area and large beautiful buildings lined the streets.  Shops and cafes abounded.  People were everywhere.  Locals and tourists aliked shopped here.  This wasn’t a place just for sightseeing.  This was where the Viennese came out for a stroll and to shop.  Goods ranged from high-end shops to chain stores such as H&M, Zara and Salamander.

Whilst being completely mesmerized by all around me, the bustling of the people, the cobbled stones, the beautiful turn of the century shop which boasted an elevator that reminded me of movies, I am suddenly a speck in a large open space with an enormous cathedral looming overhead.  I have to literally bend my neck backwards to look up at this collosal building.

Stephansdom is impressive.  For over 800 years, a church has stood in this place and the surviving one dates from the 14th and 15th centuries.  Some of the Habsburgs lie in a vault beneath this church and the spire points up 137 meters into the sky.   The roof is unlike other cathedrals I’ve seen.  According to my guidebook, it has over a quarter of a million glazed tiles in beautiful colours of yellow, green and blue.  One side has the crest of Vienna with the two-headed eagle.

Inside, it is like other gothic cathedrals with a large altar up front and high high ceilings.  I pass the pulpit and cannot but stand in awe at its intricate design of portraits of the Four fathers of the Church.  The master craftsman of course doesn’t forget to put a portrait of himself looking out a window. He has a sense of humour.

I climb up the North Tower for a view of Vienna.  It’s beautiful up here, but the wind that blows through the small balcony makes my legs shiver.  I stand close to the wall and dare not move around too much.  I suppose I am afraid of heights afterall even though I like to tell myself I am not afraid of heights.  The see through metal flooring doesn’t help. I can see the ground far below me at certain points.  I bypass the catacombs below.  They are not my cup of tea.

I take a seat in front of the altar with my camera and guidebook and relax whilst taking in the beauty of the place.  Its peaceful and beautiful in here.  I can understand how much this has done for religion.  It is a place where people unite together and pray.  It’s a place where they can find peace of mind amidst the busy walking street outside.  Stephansdom.  Generations of Viennese have passed through these doors.  Now I can say that I too have seen Stephansdom in Vienna, Austria.