Stephansdom (Saint Stephen's Cathedral) - view from the northwest

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Stephansdom (Saint Stephen's Cathedral) is one of the most famous Vienna’s sights. It defines the city centre and it has been considered to be the heart of Vienna for ages. It was built in 1147 and for long time it was the highest building in Europe. Its height is almost 137 metres. Later, the complete restructuring of the church in Gothic style was ordered by Duke Rudolf IV of Habsburg. In 1359, he laid the cornerstone of the nave with its two aisles. The South Tower (Südturm), representative of the whole cathedral, was completed in 1433 (the Viennese have given it the nickname "Steffl," which also denotes the whole cathedral). After 1511, building in the Gothic style ceased; the unfinished North Tower (Nordturm), more than 68 meters high, was capped with a makeshift Renaissance spire in 1579. The north tower has an elevator and stairs; the Hochturm requires a climb of 75 meters up a spiral staircase to the observation platform.

Besides Gothic and Renaissance styles, one more can be seen in the architecture of the cathedral. During the 18th century, it was decorated with Baroque altarpieces - the panel of the main altar shows the stoning of its namesake St. Stephen, the first martyr of Christendom. The cathedral has two very impressive features: besides above mentioned tall, lean tower it is also the gigantic roof (which can be seen in detailed way from the observation platform).

Inside the Cathedral there are many art treasures like the tomb of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1754), the pulpit by Anton Pilgram (1514-15), the Altarpiece of Wiener Neustadt, the sepulcher of Emperor Frederik III by Niclas Gerhaert, the watchman`s lookout, a self portrait of the sculptor, and the Gothic winged altar. The sound of the 'Pummerin', the cathedral’s big bell, is used to celebrate New Year in Austria.

St. Stephen's cathedral is open daily for tours and worship. One can take a guided tour and see all the above mentioned art treasures and guided tours to catacombs of the cathedral are also possible. One will see the usual assortment of sarcophagi holding the bones of dead rulers, archbishops, and other personages, as well as parts, where the bones of more than 15,000 Viennese have been stacked like kindling since the 1700s.
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