After visiting universities in Holland, I took a short flight to Austria for a conference. If the Netherlands is cozy, Vienna is stately — it’s clear that the Austrian Habsburgs had a much more regal worldview than that of the commercially-oriented Dutch. (The Austrians had the Holy Roman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the Dutch had a republic led by a man nicknamed William the Taciturn, which should tell you everything you need to know about these two European powers).
If there’s one thing most monarchies do well, it’s build palaces. Generations of Viennese monarchs built the Hofburg, a grandiose residence that keeps going …
… including this rendition of the double-headed eagle of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, which Austria has adopted as its coat of arms. (Side note: I always think the eagles look rather anemic.)
… while this altar sits in the chapel where Mozart was married!
The high altar is especially impressive. It features the best stained glass in the cathedral and a 17th-century painting of St. Stephen being stoned by pagans (but just before he dies, he looks up and sees Christ and the angels, so presumably that makes it all ok).
St. Stephen’s boasts several other notable works of art. The most elegant of these (rendered here in black and white, because I liked her better that way) is Madonna of the Servants, carved in the early 1300s:
… and a view down to part of St. Stephen’s square…
… and all the way across Vienna to the city’s Ferris wheel:
The roof of St. Stephen’s is made up of 230,000 ceramic tiles.
Most are in this pattern …
… but we also see a return of the double-headed eagle (it looks like two eagles, I know — just trust me on this):
I also paid a visit to the Peterskirche (St. Peter’s), a Catholic church built in the early 1700s.
It’s a very shiny church, all Italian Baroque enthusiasm.
I was lucky enough to catch a brief afternoon organ concert here:
The Hapsburgs cracked down on the Protestants for well over two centuries, but Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II finally signed a Patent of Toleration in 1781. This allowed non-Catholic Christians to practice in their own churches (though they had to do so pretty much in secret, and they weren’t allowed to hold wedding ceremonies). The first Austrian Greek Orthodox church was founded in Vienna in 1787, and they built the Holy Trinity Church in 1858:
It’s all shiny and Baroque inside — this may be a Greek Orthodox church, but it feels very Austrian in style.
I was out early on a Saturday morning, so I got to see the priests on their way to work:
It’s fun to walk around Vienna — the buildings are tall, but not too tall (generally between six and eight stories) …
… and there are many touches — from organ concerts to horse-drawn carriages — that make you feel like you could be in the Vienna of two hundred years ago.