Visit St. Stephen’s Cathedral and you’ll be standing in the same church in which Joseph Haydn sang as a choir boy, and in which Mozart was married in 1782. From the very beginning, the cathedral has played an important part in Vienna
’s spiritual and worldly affairs. Embark on a discovery tour of St. Stephen’s (or Steffl, as the Viennese lovingly call it), and as you uncover its hidden secrets, descend into its catacombs, and climb its lofty towers, you’ll also learn about the history of the city itself.
The oldest remaining parts of St. Stephen’s (the beautifully Giant Gate and the Towers of the Heathens) date from the 13th century when Vienna was growing in importance and significantly expanding its city limits. Duke Rudolph IV of Habsburg, in 1359, laid the cornerstone of the Gothic nave with its two aisles. From then on, it took over two hundred years for the building to reach its present shape: The most prominent feature of the Cathedral is the Gothic South Tower, which was completed in 1433. The unfinished North Tower was capped with a makeshift Renaissance spire in 1579. During the 18th century, the cathedral was decorated with Baroque altarpieces - the panel of the main altar shows the stoning of its namesake St. Stephen, the first martyr of Christendom.
Next to the North Tower elevator is the entrance to the catacombs underneath the cathedral. The underground burial place contains the mausoleum of the bishops, the tombs of Duke Rudolph the Founder and other members of the Habsburg family, and 56 urns with the intestines of the Habsburgs buried between 1650 and the 19th century in the Imperial Burial Vault.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral houses a wealth of art treasures, some of which can only be seen on a guided tour, such as a red-marble sepulcher sculpted from 1467 to 1513, the pulpit from 1514-15, a Gothic winged altar from 1447 and the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy, dating from 1754. In the North Tower, Austria's largest bell, known as the Boomer Bell (Pummerin), has found its home and can be reached via an express elevator that takes you to the observation platform.
The magnificent South Tower, which alone took 65 years to build, is to this day the highest point in the skyline of Vienna’s inner city. You can climb the 343 steps of the tight spiral staircase that leads up to the watchman's lookout 246 feet above street level. The lookout was once used as a fire warden's station and observation point for the defense of the then-walled city. The climb is well worth it: Once at the top, you’ll enjoy the finest view over the Old Town in all of Vienna