Morbid Austria:
Touring Cemeteries of Vienna - Part II

For Imperial nobility and aristocracy of the 19th century, do not miss out on the Hietzinger Friedhof near Schloss Schönbrunn Palace. Here you can find the graves of Gustav Klimt, Alban Berg, Kolomann Moser and Otto Wagner, as well as Austria′s fascist leader Engelbert Dollfuss who was shot by Nazi revolutionaries in 1934. His death-bed (or death-sofa, rather), is on display in the Heeresgeschichtliches Museum.

Hietzinger Friedhof is among the most elaborate and best-groomed cemeteries of Vienna and well worth a longer visit. Similar, but less elaborate are the cemeteries of Grinzing, Döbling and Heiligenstadt. There is a "Friedhof der Namenlosen" cemetery for nameless bodies - unidentified victims of accidents or suicides, mostly fetched out of the Danube - at the Danube Terminal of Albern.

But what happened to the old cemeteries of the Inner City? They were "dissolved", meaning that bones and skulls were partly taken out of the tombs or possible just left where they were and new buildings or squares were built. Many of the skulls and bones can be seen in the catacombs of Stephansdom Cathedral and the Michaelerkirche Church, for both you will have to attend guided tours. The Emperors and members of the Habsburg Family, however, were mostly buried in the Kapuzinergruft ("Emperor′s Tomb") by the Neuer Markt Square, and their hearts in the "Herzgrüftl" (Little Heart Crypt) in the Augustinerkirche - which itself is famous for several particularly elaborate tombs.

Sightseeing at the Zentralfriedhof Central Cemetery

So, when the culture around pompous funerals and massive graves was peaking in the 19th century, suddenly the existing cemeteries could not hold up with the enormous growth of Vienna. In 1874, Emperor Franz Joseph I founded a new cemetery at the city limits of Vienna - the huge, huge "Zentralfriedhof" or "Central Cemetery", which featured in "The Third Man" in the legendary final scenes. The Zentralfriedhof is among Vienna′s must see attractions, and thousands of tourists go there every year. It is 2.4 square kilometres big, houses some 300,000 graves with 3 million bodies in them - a lot more than the number of residents in Vienna.

This makes the Zentralfriedhof the biggest cemetery of Europe and one of the biggest of the World. However, the tourists come primarily for the celebrity corpses in the "Ehrengräber" ("Tombs of Honour"). The first body to take permanent residence was Jakob Zelzer in a grave that still exists, 15 other dead people followed the same day. The city of Vienna emphasised the hyper-denominational character of the Zentralfriedhof and got into quite a bit of an argument with the Catholic Church over this issue.

This argument became even more aggressive when the city announced that it did not want an official Catholic opening of the new cemetery - but gave a substantial amount of money towards the construction of a segregated Jewish section. In the end, an agreement was found the Catholic representatives opened the Zentralfriedhof with a small blessing ceremony, but refrained from too much ceremonial pomposity. Beyond the old Jewish section, there are now a new Jewish, a Buddhist, an Islamic, a Protestant and an Orthodox section.

Go to: "Morbid Vienna: Part I - Part II - Part III"

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Vienna by District

District Overview - 1st (Innere Stadt) - 2nd (Leopoldstadt) - 3rd (Landstraße) - 4th (Wieden) - 5th (Margareten)- 6th (Mariahilf) - 7th (Neubau) - 8th (Josefstadt) - 9th (Alsergrund) - 10th (Favoriten) - 11th (Simmering) - 12th (Meidling) - 13th (Hietzing) - 14th (Penzing) - 15th (Fünfhaus) - 16th (Ottakring) - 17th (Hernals) - 18th (Währing) - 19th (Döbling) - 20th (Brigittenau) - 21st (Floridsdorf) - 22nd (Donaustadt) - 23rd (Liesing) -  Ringstraße - Surroundings

Further Reading

Photo Gallery: Cemeteries of Vienna

Kapuzinergruft: The Emperor's Tomb

Wikipedia on the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery)

Jewish Cemetery of Währing

Michaelerkirche: Official Website of the Catacombs