Old Vienna: Karlskirche and Karlsplatz

There’s a church in Vienna that is often not on the list of sights to visit for tourists who have limited time in the capital, but one I’m glad I visited.  Karlskirche.  I passed by it often on the way here and there around Vienna and one day I said, I must go.  It looks like a place worth visiting and it was.

This church dates from the time of the bubonic plague that devasted most of europe.  It’s name Karlskirche because Emperor Karl VI vowed he would build a church to St. Charles Borromeo (who is apparently patron saint of the plague) when the plague ended.   The architect, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach won the design competition and the church was built in a rich Baroque architecture.  Its no wonder.  He was also the architect of Schoenbrunn and that too was Baroque.

Going offtrack for a moment, I love the fact that the Austrians had design competitions hundreds of years ago.  The result is they now have a city full of beautiful buildings, buildings which have lasted for generations and have become landmarks.  If only we had that in Bangkok, how beautiful will our City of Angels be?

Anyways, Karlskirche is impressive.  There’s something about it that I like but I can’t quite pin.  Perhaps it’s the immense size of the church which makes you feel humble and insignificant next to it.  Or perhaps its the gigantic dome of green that tops the church. and adds colour to its otherwise white walls.  Two enormous columns stand by the front entrance with reliefs and reminds me of minarets in Egypt.  It’s baroque, yet there is some strangely asian, arabic influence.  Vienna is where the Turks were defeated.  Imagine if they had won, Christian Europe and Austria as we know it, would not be.  What a fascinating world that would be.

Inside, the altar is a stucco relief that is a must see.  In baroque style, the heaven is a golden triangle with rays of light shining all around.  Looking back on it now, I am reminded of the Da Vinci Code and the masons….I wonder if there is an eye, but I don’t remember.  Anyhow its beautiful.   Beneath the gigantic dome, there is a fresco that according to my guidebook depicts the Apothesis of St. Charles Borromeo.

Outside, there is a large fountain that makes it so breezy on a summer’s day that people just come to hang out.  You can also walk around to Karlsplatz and see the marvelous art nouveau subway station that has been converted to a coffee shop (if I remember correctly.)  Its a nice setting overlooking the Musikverein (music hall) where famous concerts are held.  The great thing is that its not so crowded (when I was there anyways) and there aren’t many tourists.

My favourite architecture style at the moment is art nouveau so I am just all grins and smiles in Vienna.  This was where art nouveau flourished and you can find it almost anywhere… but that’s a whole different discussion so I shall have to stop here before it gets too long.  🙂

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