Kapuzinerkirche, Vienna:
Capuchin Church, the Habsburgs′ final destination

The Kapuzinerkirche or Capuchin Church in Vienna can be considered one of the city′s most important tourist attractions - but only due to the tombs that can be found in its basements. The Kapuzinergruft or Kaisergruft (Capuchin Tomb or Imperial Tomb) has served as a grave for Habsburgs ever since the 17th century and draws ten thousands of visitors a year.

The church and monastery that it is associated with, however, receives almost no attention at all. The construction of the Capuchin monastery is linked a foundation of Empress Anna, wife of Emperor Matthias, of 1618. Construction work was started in the same year, in a ceremony that was attended by Emperor Ferdinand II as well as the Cardinal of Olmuce, Franz von Dietrichstein. The official name of the new church became "Kirche zur Heiligen Maria von den Engeln" ("Church of St. Mary of the Angels").

The central nave was built in five years; considering that the church is neither particularly big nor overly exciting in terms of its architecture, five years are a rather long time. This can be explained with delayed supplies of materials due to the 30-years-war. The official opening of the Capuchin Church of Vienna took place in 1632, with a ceremony done by Bishop Anton Wolfrath. The monastery was built directly attached to the church. Between 1840 and 1842, the Baroque monastery was demolished and re-built to contemporary standards. The church was not affected by these changes. During the Second World War, parts of the Capuchin Church was used by the Wehrmacht, once again this caused no serious damages.

Vienna Capuchin Church from Outside

Typical for a Capuchin Church, the Kapuzinerkirche is a plain building with a simple and coarse architecture. Approaching the building from the Neuer Markt square, you will see the insignia of the Capuchin order on the front fašade of the church. There is also a fresco that was painted in the course of a re-development of the fašade in 1936 by Hans Fischer, but it fails to excite me. The extension of the antechapel was built in 1760. To the left hand side of the church, you can see a big memorial for a Capuchin monk; this is the legate of the Pope to Vienna, Marco d′Aviano.

He was an important figure in the resistance of the Viennese who defended the city against the besieging Turkish troops in 1683. Marco d′Aviano is still remembered for the role he played at this time, and the memorial is appropriately flanked by iconic scenes of the "Battle of the Kahlenberg" and the siege itself. Marco d′Aviano died in 1699 and his tomb can be found in one of two side-chapels of the Capuchin Church.

More Capuchin Church Interiors & Attractions Nearby

The other chapel is the "Kaiserkapelle" and dedicated to the Habsburg emperors. Most paintings inside the Capuchin Church were probably made by Norbert Baumgartner, the altar by Peter Strudel (he of the Strudelhofstiege). The most recent extensive renovation of the Capuchin Church took place in the 1970ies.

Attractions nearby are numerous, so I focus only on the most important ones in the immediate surroundings: The Donner Brunnen is a Baroque fountain at the centre of the Neuer Markt Square; the Dorotheerkirche is just around the corner, same with the Jewish Museum; the Kärntnerstraße, Malteserkirche, Annakirche and Opera can be found in the other direction. And the Palais Lobkowitz, the Augustinerkirche, the National Library, the Albertina and the rest of the Hofburg attractions are all within three minutes walk. Have fun!

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Further Reading

Official Website of the Capuchins in Vienna, Austria

Wikipedia on the Capuchin Crypt / Imperial Crypt, Vienna

PlanetWare on the Capuchin Church / Kapzinerkirche, Vienna