Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle Döbling:
Rottening Baroque Gem in a Quiet Corner of Vienna
Visitors of the Wertheimstein Park in the 19th district of Vienna might exit this nice patch of green by passing the Villa Wertheimstein. Once the villa of one of Vienna′s most distinguished banker families, the Villa Wertheimstein is now home to the district museum (Bezirksmuseum) of Döbling. On the opposite side of the road, you might see a charming little chapel in Baroque style, rotting and in a messy garden in a way that is somewhat unusual in tidy-close-to-Fascism Vienna. As of 2009, the crumbling fašade reminds you rather of a chapel in Italy than in Austria - which to me is a good thing. This chapel is the Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle, a small but nice building in an otherwise predominantly residential area.
The first Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle was built by the local merchant Wolff Josef Hoffmändl von Mangeram between 1726 and 1739. The privately endowed building became a popular focal point for the local community, which in turn was growing rapidly. By 1783, the community was big enough to demand a new parish church. Two chapels were "short-listed" for being extended, including the Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle. In the end, nearby St. Paul made it and two years later, the Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle was closed. The interiors were sold and the building served as a storage room.
After a few years, the chapel had started to disintegrate badly; the building was demolished and re-built in the current late-Baroque style. Between 1826 and 1829, St. Paul was re-built as a bigger church and the new Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle made a convenient substitute during these years; but after the completion of the new St. Paul Church, the Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle was closed once again. Its new profane use was as a rehearsing facility and theatre.
More Recent History of St. Nepomuk Chapel
In 1875, the nuns of the "Orden vom Armen Kinde Jesu" opened a convent in Vienna. They purchased the Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle and a neighbouring building, which they demolished to create space for a new school building. This Catholic school proved to be successful, prospered and exists until today. In the late 19th century, a new chapel was built for the convent and the Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle was finally closed again as a religious building. The nuns had a floor built inside the church to divide the nave into two levels; the upper level served as a congregation room, the lower one as a refectory. Convent and school are now housed in modern buildings; the Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle, however, is not being used.
By and large, the Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle is not really anything to shout about; however, I like unnoticed and crumbling buildings and think that Vienna could do with a few more of them. If you happen to by in the area (or take a tram to Grinzing), you might notice the chapel and now know what it is. I also recommend the neighbourhood for walks to everybody with an interest in architecture (like myself). Note the previously mentioned Wertheimstein Park and Bezirksmuseum, but also the residential area surrounding it.
It is an upper-class area for a long time, resulting in an interesting array of villas in various styles. You might find a few Jugendstil houses; I can also think of a very interesting villa you can identify at the first glance as a design by Josef Hoffmann (he of the Wiener Werkstätte). There is a Jewish business school just down the street of the Johann-Nepomuk Kapelle; and the Zacherlfabrik in its bizarre Mosque-like style is also within easy walking distance.
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