Saint Peter's Church (Peterskirche)

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Saint Peter's Church (Peterskirche) ( 480x640 )
It is the second-oldest church in Vienna and the spot on which it stands could well be Vienna's oldest Christian church site. It is situated near Street Graben Petersplatz and is largely obscured by the surrounding buildings, and can only be seen clearly from directly in front. Charlemagne is said to have founded a church on this site during the late 8th or early 9th century, although there is no evidence supporting this statement, but the tale immortalized by the relief plaque on the right side of the church. In any case, the first written reference about Saint Peter’s church in Vienna dates back to the year 1137. The construction of the new building started in 1701. It was designed and very early works were done by Gabriele Montani, but he was shortly replaced by Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt (in 1703). The building was finished in 1732.

Saint Peter’s church in Vienna is a true copy of Saint Peter’s Church in Rome. It is the most lavishly decorated baroque church. The facade has angled towers, graceful turrets (said to have been inspired by the tents of the Turks during the siege of 1683), and an unusually fine entrance portal.

Inside the church, the Baroque decoration is elaborate, with some fine touches (particularly the glass-crowned galleries high on the walls to either side of the altar and the amazing tableau of the martyrdom of St. John Nepomuk). The fresco in the dome is a masterpiece by Johann Michael Rottmayr depicting the coronation of the Virgin. However, the first designer was Matthias Steinl, and the frescoes were made by Andrea Pozzo, whose paintings were removed after his death. Now the church contains many frescoes and much gilded carved wood, plus altarpieces done by well-known artists of the period. The high altar was created by Antionio Galli-Bibiena (construction) and Martino Altomonte (altarpiece). But the lack of light and the years of accumulated dirt create a prevailing gloom, and the much-praised ceiling frescoes by J. M. Rottmayr are impossible to make out. This problem was partly solved by renovation which was done recently, from 1998 to 2004. Just before Christmastime each year, the basement crypt is filled with a display of nativity scenes.
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