Kirche St. Erhard in Mauer:
A Village Church on the Outskirts of Vienna
I often refer to Vienna as a cluster of a large number of villages - which to me, a child of the countryside, is not a bad thing. The way that Vienna has merged with villages that had previously existed around the actual city becomes increasingly obvious the further you move towards the outskirts. Once you get beyond the Gürtel road, which marks the former outer city walls, it is particularly striking how rural Vienna is in some corners.
One of these corners is the village of Mauer, which was incorporated into Vienna only in 1938 - in the course of Vienna′s last expansion administered by the Nazis. Unimpressed by such administrative reforms, Mauer still has the atmosphere of a village. Of an ugly village, that is - the neighbourhood has approximately 17,000 residents and no atmosphere whatsoever. Its charms are either suburban or non-existent. The only noteworthy things in Mauer are the Wotruba Kirche, a modern church and a nearby open-air planetary; and the area of Lange Gasse and the former town square, the Maurer Hauptplatz with the parish church Kirche St. Erhard.
The oldest record for this church dates back to 1458; back then, the church was a Gothic building and belonged to the Knights of Eckartsau. Note in this context the chateaux of Eckartsau in the Marchfeld - temporary home to the last Emperor before his expulsion from Austria. This Gothic church was a "Wehrkirche" or "defense church" with thick walls; similar to the church St. Oswald in Mödling, which is still preserved in its original state. Despite of the surely very impressive walls, St. Erhard suffered badly from both Turkish sieges - 1529 and even more so 1683. In the 1770ies, St. Erhard was upgraded to a Baroque building. In 1783, the church was segregated from the parish of Atzgersdorf (the latter now famous for its motorway crossing) and became church to its own parish.
Recent History of St. Erhard, Vienna
In the 1930ies, St. Erhard faced to problems: It had become too small for the ever-growing community in Mauer; and the tram, which was supposed to be extended to Mauer, should have gone right through its main nave. In order to kill these two birds with a single stone, the 1930ies star architect Clemens Holzmeister was hired to re-arrange the building. Between 1934 and 1936, Holzmeister removed the old nave and built a new one, tilted by 90 degrees. The tower, which dates back to 1770, was preserved and incorporated into the new church St. Erhard.
The resulting new building might appear plain and like a weird mish-mash of styles (it is); but the mix makes it unique and Holzmeister-works are always worth a closer look. The interiors, by the way, are mostly Baroque and the originals from the 18th century. Note the altar painting by Paul Troger, dating back to 1740; the pieta by Giovanni Giuliani from 1710; and the glass windows and mosaics by Albert Paris Gütersloh from the 1930ies.
The oldest part of the church St. Erhard is the Gothic choir, which Clemens Holzmeister re-arranged into a separate chapel. Getting to Mauer by tram is easy, but why should you? However, if you happen to be in the area, do check out the Wotruba Church and maybe even the Bergkirche Rodaun (last stop of the very tram that is responsible for the re-arrangement of the Kirche St. Erhard).
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