You don´t have to be overly religious to appreciate the beauty of a church and the calmness it tends to exude. But which ones to visit when in Vienna?
I love old buildings in general because, first of all, back in the days people obviously had better taste and more appreciation for great architecture when it came to building homes (and of course the insignificant fact that only a small percentage of rich emperors and peers had the money to do so). Secondly, I love the splendour and mysticism these buildings evaporate. Churches in general always give me the feeling of utter tranquility and regularly leave me stupefied because of their (in many cases) sheer grandeur. Well, good thing I´m currently living in a city like Vienna blessed with a vast amount of such edifices.
I admit, my schooling in a catholic private school initially had quite the opposite effect on me. I did not feel attached at all to any of the things to do with church and when on travels I rarely felt the need to explore churches as part of my sightseeing program. Well, that has changed. And drastically so. You know, being in love with an architect who also happens to be a church fanatic (on Valentine´s day he took me to Saint Valentine´s remnants at St. Stephen´s Cathedral, need I say more?) turns out to be surprisingly interesting/irritating/fantastic. I think within the last three years I have seen more churches than I have seen the 30 years before which is actually a good thing because I´ll make you profit from my in-depth Viennese church knowledge right now.
Since there are quite a few beautiful churches in Vienna, I´ll just walk you through the ones I „regularly“ visit (you know, others take strolls in the park, I just walk around and visit churches) in Vienna´s city center:
Stephansdom (St. Stephen´s Cathedral)
You cannot miss St. Stephen´s Cathedral and if you do you are blind. It literally is the center of Vienna. The whole city is built around it and there are endless possibilities to discover new angles and facettes of the dome. You can climb the tower and get a fantastic view of the inner city, descend into the catacombs or just take in the amazing Roman and Gothic architecture.
Augustiner Kirche (Augustinian church)
If you are into classical music, this is where you should go on sundays! The church is known for its top of the pops Sunday High Mass with full orchestra and choir. Back in the days Franz Schubert conducted his Mass in F at this very church. The mass usually starts at 11 am and you´d be well advised to arrive early to get hold of a seat. Fun fact: most of our former Habsburg emperors got married at the Augustinian church.
Franziskaner Kirche (Franciscan church)
I love this church for two main reasons: first, its location. The church is situated on one of Vienna´s most picturesque little squares. Secondly, every single time I go there I am fascinated by one very peculiar thing: a vending machine for religious goods. Like, you can get your bible, candle or holy water supplies there in case you might urgently (?) need them. Plus, it´s a really pretty little church, too. 😉
Peterskirche (St. Peter´s church)
Did Robert Langdon just call? Dan Brown´s eponymous hero might have an interest in Vienna´s St. Peter´s church since it is led by Opus Dei priests. And you can absolutely feel the opulence often inherent to Opus Dei churches. It is a truly beautiful building and you should absolutely stop by since it is just off Vienna´s Graben and therefore right around the corner from every major tourist attraction in town.
Jesuitenkirche (Jesuit church)
This is actually my favourite church in Vienna (probably because it reminds me of a church in Rome I particularly love). I love the art installations usually to be found around Easter (because that´s the time they install a Lenten cloth which sometimes is a very intersting piece of art) , my favourite was a giant rock hanging from the ceiling last year. In any case, the baroque building with gorgeous marble interiors is definitely worth a visit.