Mariahilfer Kirche - Part II:
Charming Corners off Vienna′s Main Shopping Lane
However, I am pretty damn sure that the site of the Haydn memorial was originally occupied by a statue of the Virgin Mary. Why? If you look at the fašade of the church, you see angels holding a crown - this is a popular play on perspectives as it is typical for the Baroque Age: When pilgrims approached the church, they would see the crown hovering above the head of Mary, slowly going down on her head the closer they got. A neat trick that I know from my hometown Salzburg, where we got one of these at the cathedral. At Mariahilf, this now works with Haydn. And it does work well since the towers and front fašade were refurbished in 2004.
Another anecdote: When the underground of Mariahilfestraße was battered in the course of digging the tunnels for the subway line U3, the land under the church was disrupted. The towers started to lean towards the road, whereas the nave moved to the opposite direction down the hill. Only with the aid of massive steel supporters, the church was rescued.
If you walk around the church and look at the fašade (be careful when doing so, the bums poo everywhere), you might still see cracks and tension measurement devices in the walls. At the passage way of Barnabitengasse, you will find a very big crucifix: This used to stand at the execution site of Vienna′s inner city and was the last large-scale cross that a delinquent saw before being hung for many decades.
Surroundings of Mariahilferkirche: My former Hood
From a taxi driver, I once learned that only a few years ago this was a rather rough area with a very large brothel at the end of Barnabitengasse - he had worked there in his youth. Today, the alley is cobbled and a rather nice pedestrian zone. Behind Mariahilferkirche, you find the remains of Palais Esterhazy (one of several) - a garden palais of the Hungarian Princes of Esterhazy, which is why the patch of green at the end of Barnabitengasse is called "Esterhazy Park". Apart from a small spot that is named after Fritz Grünbaum, a very nice Jewish comedian from the 1930ies, who was killed by the Nazis in a concentration camp.
Attractions nearby Mariahilferkirche are rare, but since this is my former hood, I do feel obliged to promote the area a bit. Note the Haus des Meeres Aquarium, which offers stunning views on not only Mariahilferkirche, but much of Vienna from the top of its Flak tower. The Appollo Kino movie theatre is one of Vienna′s few (and nicest) Art Deco buildings. The Hofmobiliendepot or Möbel Museum is not far and a fun museum for a rainy day. The Stiftskirche and the MuseumsQuartier beyond are not too far, either.
By the way, the area around Gumpendorferstraße features in my article on my favourite areas in Vienna and is full of interior design stores, nice cafes and art galleries. And if you walk a bit further, you get to Spittelberg in one direction or to the Naschmarkt into the other. The Secession and the Theater an der Wien are also within walking distance.
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