Jesuiten- & Dominikanerkirche Churches,
Alte Aula & Old University District - Part II
Once the counter-reformation had kicked in and the Turks were beaten and chased away beyond Hungary, Austria bloomed like never before and the university recovered quickly. Empress Maria Theresia and her son and successor Emperor Joseph II were not terribly fond of Jesuites (the latter one finally dissolving the order) and cut down the religious influence of the Societa Jesu in academic matters. The building of the Alte Aula was erected under the reign of Maria Theresia as the ceremonial hall for the university.
You might still catch a glimpse at the elaborate stucco work and frescos in the main hall (Festsaal) from outside, but since the building is now used by the Austrian Academy of Sciences, it is not open to the public in general. Over the course of the 19th century, the Vienna University remained under tight control of the Habsburgs. Only under the rule of Emperor Franz Joseph I in the second half of the 19th century, the newly formed Jesuits could re-establish themselves at the university of Vienna.
The Jesuit church was originally built during the 30-Years′-War, between 1623 and 1631. Due to the suffering of the war period, the original interiors were plain and simple - something hard to imagine looking at today′s overblown Baroque that hits you upon entering the church. By the way: 1623 was also the year in which the Jesuits′ college was merged with the university and the foundation year of Salzburg University (which was a Benedictine institution and a toy of the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg). The Jesuitenkirche is dedicated to the Saint Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Jesuits) and Saint Franz Xaver.
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After 1703, the artist Andrea Pozzo worked for Emperor Leopold I in the Jesuitenkirche. Matching with the general boom of Austria after the victory in the Turkish wars, he spiced the church up with the current fašade, the two towers and opulent interiors including lots and lots of frescos, marble, gold, pillars, a huge organ, more gold and stucco work for the icing. Note the fake cupola that is painted on the ceiling of the main nave: From the entrance area, it looks quite realistic, but from the side it is easy to spot it as a Trompe-l oeil (French for "fake-3D") painting.
If you are still dissatisfied with all this Baroque glory, you can walk around the corner twice at the Seipel-Platz and find the Italian-like Dominikanerkirche. The church is surprisingly well-hidden in a quiet corner of Vienna and not as shiny as many other sacral buildings of the city are. Without doubt, this adds to both the Italian impression and the appeal of the site. It is a good church for a stop-over in silence to rest during your general sightseeing busy-ness.
Other nearby attractions include the Hoher Markt with the "Anker Uhr" Clock and the Vermählungsbrunnen, obviously the Stephansdom, more charming alleys around the Franziskanerkirche Church. The Postsparkasse and the former Ministry of War are within walking distance, and so is the Stadtpark with its kitschy Strauss-Memorial and the Museum for Applied Arts (MAK). In any case, I would advise you to follow the flow of this area and relax - to me, Vienna doesn′t get much more charming than here, but this might be just because this neighbourhood looks a lot like Salzburg.
Return to "Jesuitenkirche & Old University - Part I"
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