"Russenkirche" St. Nikolaus:
Russian Orthodox Church in Vienna

It is a somewhat peculiar sight if you walk down the Rennweg in Vienna′s third district of Landstraße without any expectations: An enormous Russian Orthodox church as one would imagine to find it only in Russia itself hits many visitors of Vienna with surprise. The "Russenkirche St. Nikolaus" was built for the Russian community in Vienna in the 19th century - in the style of an authentic Russian Orthodox church.

The origin of the Russenkirche is linked with the diplomatic connections between Russia and Austria. A Russian Orthodox community had existed in the Austrian capital for a relatively long time, but it was constrained to the work of the Russian embassy. Between 1842 and 1884, Archpope Michail Rajewskij was the head of the embassy church. Based on his initiative, the Russian community of Vienna applied for a permission to build a proper church. This permission was granted and Rajewskij started to collect donations for the construction. However, Rajewskij died in 1884 - when the collected money covered only the cost of the construction of the small Lazaruskirche on the Zentralfriedhof.

Rajewskij′s successor was Archduke Alexander Nikolajewskij from Reval. He continued to collect money and assured a large sum from a benefactor St. Petersburg. The land for the new Russian Orthodox church was donated by the Russian embassy (essentially a corner of the embassy′s garden).

Construction of the current Russenkirche St. Nikolaus

The architect in charge was Gregorij Kotov, the construction started in 1893 under the supervision of the Italian Cavaliere Luigi Giacomelli. The church was completed in 1899 and was opened by the Archbishop of Warsaw and Chelm. The Russenkirche was severely damaged in the course of WWII; ironically, the third district was under Soviet control after the fighting had ceased. Despite of the damages, the Russenkirche was re-opened right after the war and repaired until 1949.

The Russenkirche has two towers with characteristic onion domes. It is well-known for its "Iconostase", the wall that displays icons on gilded cypress wood. The church is dedicated to St. Nicolas and Alexander Newskij, both of them are depicted on paintings at the sides of the church. The Russenkirche has the rank of a cathedral in the Orthodox Church, since it is the seat of the diocese Vienna and Austria.

Attractions nearby include the Salesianerinnenkirche, Schloss Belvedere Palace and the Austrian National Gallery, Palais Schwarzenberg, the Heldendenkmal der Roten Armee and the Hochstrahlbrunnen; the Gardekirche; and - in the other direction - the Rochusmarkt and Rochuskirche, the Elisabethinenkirche, the Münze Österreich; and the Art Depot in the Flak Tower of the Arenberg Park. The Stadtpark with Kursalon Hübner is within walking distance, too.

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Further Reading

Official Website of the Russenkirche St. Nikolaus