Morbid Austria:
Touring Cemeteries of Vienna - Part III

Upon entering the Zentralfriedhof, you might be amazed about the fun-fair atmosphere in some corners: Merchants sell flowers and candles alongside with drinks, snacks and souvenirs. Have a look at the maps that are on display at all entrances to get an overview. The "Tombs of Honour" lie just in front of the Karl-Borromäus-Church designed by Max Hegele in 1910. This church is dedicated to the same saint as the Karlskirche and in both cases, another "Karl" was the real reason: It commemorates Karl Lueger, an important Viennese mayor who also got a square named after him at the Ringstraße.

Max Hegele was a student to Otto Wagner and the church is said to be an important counter-piece to Wagner′s "Kirche am Steinhof" Church. To me, it is a very odd and not very nice mix of Jugendstil (Art Nouveau) in a very colourful way with elements from historicism and general bad taste. Since it was recently refurbished, the Las-Vegas-casino-like colours can be admired in their original intensity.

Tombs of Honour in Europe′s biggest Necropolis

The Tombs of Honour are arranged according to professional fields - scientists and artists on one side, musicians and composers on the other. The segregation is not too strict, though. The round platform in the centre is the tomb for Austrian presidents. The composers rank highest in tourists′ affection: There are Christoph Willibald Gluck, Johannes Brahms, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Hugo Wolf, Johann Strauss (Senior and Junior), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (empty tomb, a fake), pop-star Falco and others.

Around the corner you find the tombs of Alexander Zemlinsky and his student Arnold Schoenberg, the latter one with a particularly nice stone. He lies next to another Jewish celebrity, Austria′s all-time-favourite chancellor Bruno Kreisky who spent my pension in socialist euphoria during the 1970ies. Tourists looking for the tomb of Egon Schiele are at the wrong cemetery: Austria′s most distinguished modern artists lies at the Friedhof Ober-St-Veit nearby.

More "Residents" than Vienna

To find Arthur Schnitzler′s grave, you have to go to the Jewish section. He lies next to the comedian Gerhard Bronner, who was buried the week before the last time I went there. The Jewish section is generally a bit less pompous and rather plain compared to the 19th century aristocracy graves. One thing you should note in the general section - especially around the Karl-Borromäus-Church - are references to the dead person′s social status or profession.

Artists have brushes carved into stone, surgeons the serpents tied around a stick and often the profession is even given on the tombstone. If all this morbid sightseeing has not been enough for you yet, try the "Undertaker′s Museum" in the 4th district or the Josephinum in the 9th district with its anatomical collection. Going to a Heurigen might also be a good idea to get familiar with the morbid folk songs of the Viennese.

If you make it to Salzburg, you should see the Petersfriedhof, one of Austria′s oldest, and the cemetery of St. Sebastian, where Mozart′s father and wife are buried. Here you can also see the change of funeral culture: The Sebastiansfriedhof was shaped by imperial aristocrats in the 19th century, so Mozart′s widow already got a much nicer grave for herself.

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