Kirche St. Gertrud (Währingerkirche), Vienna:
Baroque Church in Währing
Vienna′s 18th district or Währing is a predominantly high-end residential area with neat villas and lots of green areas - both in terms of vegetation and politically. At the heart of Währing, you find the BOKU (University of Agricultural Studies), which explains the political affiliation of Währing′s population: Austrian students tend to vote green. That being said, not all of Währing is villas and parks. There is a distinct stretch of the 18th district along the notorious Gürtel Road that looks just like a "normal" urban neighbourhood in Vienna. It is probably the most densely populated part of Währing, the one that is the closest to the city center - and home to Kirche St. Gertrud (also called Währingerkirche), one of Vienna′s numerous Baroque churches.
If you happen to walk through this "urban corner" of Währing, St. Gertrud might hit you with surprise: The square in front of the church has a distinct "village feel". Archaeologists think that at the site of the present church, a chapel had existed before. According to one document, this was the case since 1226; if this was actually the case, it would have been one of the oldest sacral buildings within modern Vienna. This chapel was called "Gertrudskapelle". At around 1400, the local community (already called Währing or something similar - it gave its name to the district when it was created in the 19th century) became an independent parish.
History of the Current Parish Church of Währing
The current Kirche St. Gertrud or Währingerkirche dates back to the year 1753. The old chapel was replaced by a state-of-the-art church. The main altar and much of the other interiors date back to that time; the central altar painting was made by Peter Strudel (he of the Strudelhofstiege in the Alsergrund). Centuries passed, and after WWI, the need for more space became increasingly pressing. St. Gertrud was extended by something similar to an antechapel in 1934. The extension of the church was done in a somewhat clumsy manner, which did not help to preserve the original appearance of the building. The architect in charge was Karl Holey, a local man from Vienna who later became "Dombaumeister" (head builder) of the Stephansdom Cathedral.
The controversial upgrade of 1934 divided the Kirche St. Gertrud into two parts: The Laurentius-Kirche or Wochentagskirche (Weekday Church) on one side; and the Gertrudskirche or Sonntagskirche (Sunday Church). Both rooms are connected, but distinct. In 2002, extensive renovation measures helped to partly reverse the worst mistakes from 1934. The two sections of the church are connected, but distinct. The lighting was modernised and the interiors - though rather plain - blend in well with the Baroque outlay of the church.
St. Gertrud is not the only noteworthy Baroque church of Währing - see also the Kirche St. Ägidius next to the Geymüller Schlössl. Other attractions nearby include the Universitätssternwarte (University Star Observatory); the Volksoper; the old Jewish Cemetery; the Türkenschanzpark; the AKH; and a bit further on towards the city centre, you find the Spanish Hospital, the Josephinum, the Palais Clam-Gallas and the Palais Liechtenstein, as well as the Pfarrkirche Lichtental and Franz Schubert′s birthplace.
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