Ruprechtskirche, Vienna:
Romanesque Church, possibly the Oldest One

The Ruprechtskirche is a small, Romanesque church in the city centre of Vienna. It overlooks the Donaukanal and can be found on the edge of the "Bermudadreieck", the wannabe-yuppie bar district of Vienna. The Ruprechtskirche might be the oldest church of Vienna - at least the oldest one still in approximately the original shape. On the site of the Baroque Peterskirche historians suspect an even older church. According to legend, the Ruprechtskirche was first built in 740. Sounds somewhat cute to me as being from Salzburg myself - 740 is half a century after the first bishop of Salzburg has been installed. Anyway, things in Eastern Europe are often a bit behind.

Speaking of the first bishop of Salzburg: His name was Rupert, he is now a saint and the patron saint of the salt skippers. Ruprecht is a variation of the name, and the Ruprechtskirche was named after him because the Danube was an important trade route for salt. The Ruprechtskirche served Vienna as a "Salzamt", the only point where salt was allowed to be sold. The trade with salt was a privilege of the landlord and source of a constant stream of income - therefore, the Ruprechtskirche playd an important economic role for Vienna.

Medieval Ruprechtskirche: Spiritual Centre of Vienna

The first written record of Ruprechtskirche can be tracked back to 1200, when it was given to the Schottenstift Abbey by Duke Heinrich II Jasomirgott (who founded the Schottenstift and used the church as part of the endowment). In this document, the Ruprechtskirche is called the "oldest church of Vienna" - which is the main reason for the claim that the church is just that.

Ruprechtskirche is situated in a part of the city that was already part of the Roman fortress Vindobona. After the dissolution of this Roman settlement, the area around Ruprechtskirche seeded the development of early Medieval Vienna. Until the Stephansdom became the main church of Vienna in 1147, the Ruprechtskirche served as the parish church of the city.

In a course of a fire in 1276, the Ruprechtskirche was severely damaged. This resulted in one of several extensions and renovations; in this case, the tower gained one floor and a new apsis was built. One of today′s windows dates back to this time - it is probably Vienna′s oldest stained glass window. It is complemented by 22 modern stained glass windows from 1933. Not the only modern element in the Ruprechtskirche: The tabernacle was designed by Ignaz Kienast and made in 1998.

Ruprechtskirche Today: Between Prayer & Bermudadreieick

Today, the Ruprechtskirche is not a parish church. It is used as a religious congregation room for a local community of Christians, as a concert venue and a centre for events and exhibitions somewhere between religion and culture. The Ruprechtskirche is usually open during normal business hours and tourists are encouraged to enter and take a look. Apart from the Peterskirche, the claim to be the oldest church of Vienna was also challenged by a church newly discovered in 1137.

The Salzamt (salt trading office) was associated with the Ruprechtskirche and located in a house attached to the tower of the church. This building was called "Praghaus" and became the salt trading spot only around 1775. It served as a prison for King Wenzel of Bohemia in 1403. Another celebrity arrested here was Albrecht VI, who was forced to live in the Praghaus until the argument with his brother Emperor Friedrich IV was settled in 1458. Salt trade was liberalised in 1824 and in 1832, the Praghaus was demolished.

Attractions nearby include Maria am Gestade, the Stadttempel, Kornhäuselturm and the Böhmische Hofkanzlei as well as the Altes Rathaus. The Renaissance chapel of Salvatorkapelle is not far, nor are the Vermählungsbrunnen, Judenplatz and Ankeruhr.

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Further Reading

Official Website of the Ruprechtskirche

Wikipedia on the Ruprechtskirche Vienna

More history of the Ruprechtskirche