Rochuskapelle Chapel in Penzing:
Bubonic Plague Chapel in (once) rural Vienna

The Rochuskapelle is a Baroque chapel in the 14th district of Vienna, Penzing. It is dedicated to St. Rochus, one of the saints that was said to help against Bubonic Plague (alongside with the Holy Virgin and the Holy Trinity). Over the course of various plague epidemics and the counter-reformation craze for saints, St. Rochus became particularly popular in the Habsburg lands of Central Europe. As a backup patron, the Rochuskapelle was also dedicated to St. Sebastian. The chapel was built around 1660, the architect in charge was probably a man called Georg Gerstenbrandt.

In 1683, the Ottoman armies advanced to Vienna upon the occasion of the Second Turkish Siege of Vienna. They didn′t get where they wanted to get (within the city walls), but managed to flatten essentially every village in the surroundings of the Imperial City - especially churches. This applied to the Rochuskapelle, too. Like many churches, it was restored in its original glory once the Ottomans had been defeated. The new Rochuskapelle - built according to old designs - was opened as early as 1684. Several extensions and modernisations altered the building throughout the 18th and early 19th century - giving the chapel among other things a fašade that is rather Classicist than Baroque.

Biedermeier Ensemple around the Rochuskapelle

During the latter period (early 19th century), the surrounding neighbourhood of the Rochuskapelle was built: Biedermeier town houses which neatly frame the chapel and blend in well with the Baroque style. Note the unusual shape of the Rochuskapelle: It is a very high, but rather short building with a wooden tower (topped by a metal top) that is integrated into the roof construction. Above the entrance, you will note a painting by Johann Höfel, made in 1844 - but nothing to shout about. Unsurprisingly, it depicts St. Rochus.

The main altar is the central element of the Rochuskapelle. It was built in 1739 and essentially a trompe l′oeil painting: Only the crucifix with Christ and the tabernacle are actual objects. The rest is painted to the wall and an illusionist masterpiece (at least by 18th century standards). Attractions nearby are rather numerous - most importantly, the Imperial Palace of Schloss Schönbrunn.

Note also the Church "Kirche St. Jakob"; the Technisches Museum Wien (Museum of Technology); the Palais Cumberland; the Wiental creek line with the Otto Wagner Stadtbahn (city train) pavilion; and the various villas, chateaux and parks associated with Schönbrunn. Note that the Rochuskapelle by itself is not too exciting, but worth a closer look if you happen to be in the area - or a nice element in a walk through this particularly Imperial corner of Vienna.

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Further Reading

Website of the Parish of Penzing (in charge with Rochuskapelle)

City of Vienna on churches in Penzing