Karlskirche (Vienna)

Karlskirche (Vienna)


Tel. 01- 504 6187
Subway: Karlsplatz
Bus: 4A
Open: daily


Description of Karlskirche

Karlskirche is a Roman Catholic Church devoted to Saint Karl or Saint Charles. Its construction started in 1713 under orders of Charles VI, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. The country was devastated by the great plague epidemic that also became the last such outbreak in the European history. The church was dedicated to patron saint of the monarch, Saint Charles Borromeo cardinal archbishop of Milan, who was believed to be a healer of the victims of the plague. Karlskirche is located on the south side of Karlsplatz, which is close to the city center, and is one of the most important baroque churches north of the Alps and one of Vienna's landmarks.


History of Karlskirche

Imperial vow
On October 22, 1713, during the last great plague epidemic that also struck Vienna, Emperor Karl VI. to have a church built in St. Stephen's Cathedral. It should be dedicated to his namesake, Karl Borromäus, who is also considered a saint of plague. The plague was to be ended by the imperial promise. The plague was extinguished in 1714, and Emperor Charles VI. tendered an architectural competition for the building.

The Karlskirche belongs to the type of votive churches, as the golden letters under the front triangular gable according to Psalm XXI indicate: "Vota mea reddam in conspectu timentium deum." (I fulfilled my vows before the eyes of the godly.)

In addition, a votive plate with a Latin inscription was placed over the portal, with which Charles VI. among the happy survivors was:
In honor
God Almighty
has the venerable Karl Borromeo,
the intercessor,
the sublime emperor Charles VI,
Catholic and apostolic king,
fulfills the vow,
of which he is for the health of the people
guilty in 1713
and he partaken in the same year
has become.

Since Karlsplatz was restored as an ensemble at the end of the 1980s, the Karlskirche has not only functioned through its dome and the two flanking relief columns, but also as an architectural counterweight to the buildings of the Musikverein and the Technical University.

Spiritual care
From 1783 to 1918 the church was the patron saint parish church of the emperor and has been cared for by the Crusaders with the Red Star from Prague since 1738. Only from 1959 to 1976 was the Premonstratensians taking care of her from Geras Abbey, and from 1989 to 2000, where the administration was taken over by the personal prelature Opus Dei, there were temporary interruptions. It is also the seat of the Catholic university community of the nearby TU Vienna, which is still headed by Opus Dei.

The parish of St. Karl Borromeo, founded in 1783, was dissolved on December 31, 2016 and the parish area of ​​the parish was added to the Good News. Since January 1, 2017, the Karlskirche is a rector's church, which is still looked after by the Kreuzherren with the Red Star.

In 2011 Ricardo Alejandro Luna took over the direction and reconstruction of church music in the Karlskirche Vienna and was appointed Kapellmeister and cantor. In 2014 he founded the choir of the Karlskirche, which in February 2018 took part in the musical arrangement of the liturgy of the Holy Mass with Pope Francis as part of his first tour together with the schola of the Sistine Chapel in St. Peter's Basilica. This high mass was broadcast worldwide on television as well as on the Internet. Together with the choir of the diocese of Terni-Narni-Amelia, Luna also designed the television service broadcast by Rai 1 in the cathedral of Terni. In 2015, Luna received a commission from the Karlskirche for a fanfare that serves as a hymn to the church and for the music of large celebrations. The "Fanfare der Karlskirche Wien" op. 19 was premiered on November 8th at the Hochamt zum Patrozinium von St. Karl Borromäus under his direction.

The Kreuzherrenorden had once had a boys' choir at Karlskirche - the Singspatzen, which, however, dissolved in the 1950s. Since September 2017, the Karlsknaben have been founded as a successor boys' choir, who are to sing regularly at masses in the Karlskirche.

Design and construction
In the architectural competition, Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach prevailed against Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena and Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt, among others. He designed the church as a link between Rome and Byzantium. So she leans on the appearance of Hagia Sophia and imitates the Trajan column. The site was fixed on November 11, 1715; In the same year, the first stone mason orders went to the masters Johann Georg Haresleben and Elias Hügel in Kaisersteinbruch and Andreas Steinböck in Eggenburg. On February 4, 1716, the foundation stone was laid on a hill on the right bank of the barely regulated Vienna River. Due to the death of Haresleben in the same year, Hügel directed the stonework alone and became an employee of Fischer von Erlach. The co-masters Johann Baptist Kral, Simon Sasslaber and Johann Sebastian Hillebrand worked in camaraderie with Hügel.


On both sides of the choir of the Karlskirche and as entrances to the oratorios, unusually generously dimensioned spiral staircases are arranged. They belong to the winding stairs with cheek pillars, a special type of staircase that originated in Rome. The first of these stairs comes from Donato Bramante and was created for the Belvedere of the Vatican (1507–1514). Numerous architects emulated basically similar spiral staircases. With the influence of Italian-trained architects in Vienna, it was logical to build on the Roman stair architecture. The wide winding stairs of the Karlskirche are impressive evidence.

Hard Kaiserstein was used for the main portal, for all stairs (Kaiseroratorium), base plates, cornices and the monumental pedestals of the two columns. At the high altar, Elias Hügel designed the cafeteria, Philipp Köchl the tabernacle made of Laas marble and the Linz Johann Georg Röhrig altar steps made of black Nassauer marble. The Wiener Bauhütte was initially represented by Johann Carl Trumler, and after his death by Matthias Winkler, who were both Hofsteinmetz and cathedral master builders from St. Stephan. The large, hollow columns are made of Zogelsdorfer stone, a work by the masters Andreas Steinböck and Franz Strickner. The spiral reliefs are by the sculptors Johann Baptist Mader, Johann Baptist Straub and Jakob Christoph Schletterer, the crowning eagle by Lorenzo Mattielli. Master Georg Deprunner from Loretto in Hungary made the drum columns of the dome. 16 vases on the dome are by Ignaz Gunst.

After Fischer's death in 1723, the construction was completed by his son Joseph Emanuel until 1739, who partially changed the plans. The church was originally aligned directly with the Hofburg and until 1918 it was also the imperial parish church.

As the author of historical architecture, Fischer combined a wide variety of elements. The church shows the founder’s imperial self-image and his formal language is based on the Rome-Byzantium-Vienna connection. The facade in the middle, which leads to the porch, corresponds to a Roman temple portico. The two columns next to it are based on the Trajan column in Rome, showing reliefs of the life of Karl Barromäus. However, they also symbolize the two pillars of the Solomon Temple Jachin and Boas and the pillars of Hercules and thus refer to the reign in Spain, the Charles VI. had lost through the War of the Spanish Succession. Next to it are the two tower pavilions influenced by the Roman Baroque (Bernini and Borromini). Above the church hall there is a dome with a diameter of 25 m and a high drum, which was shortened and partially changed by the younger fisherman. The plan of the dome is not circular, but has the shape of an ellipse. That is why the dome looks smaller from the front entrance than from the side. A connection to the dome of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople was already established by contemporaries.

The construction costs officially amounted to 304,045 guilders and 22¼ Kreuzer and were borne by all crown countries, but also Spain, the Duchy of Milan and the Netherlands. Penalties were also used, which the city of Hamburg had to reimburse because "the mob there had demolished the chapel of the Austrian legation". In 1727 Marcus and Mayr Hirschl anticipated 150,000 fl. There is talk of another 100,000 guilders, which the Hirschl brothers should pay in installments at certain times.

The iconographic program of the large church comes from the court official Carl Gustav Heraeus and connects St. Karl Borromeo with his imperial founder. The relief on the gable above the entrance refers to the reason for the foundation: It shows how the city, which was plagued by the plague, is finally saved by the intercession of St. Charles Borromeo. On the parapet behind the gable are the allegorical figures of religion, mercy, penance and zeal for prayer. The attic is also one of the elements inserted by the younger fisherman. The columns show motifs from the life of Karl Borromäus in a spiral relief, but are also intended to commemorate the columns of Herakles and act as symbols of imperial power. The entrance is flanked by two angels. One shows the exaltation of the brazen serpent as a symbol of the Old Testament, the other the cross of Christ on behalf of the New Testament.


The portal's program continues inside, especially in the dome fresco by Johann Michael Rottmayr from Salzburg and Gaetano Fanti (false architecture), which represents an intercession by Karl Borromäus, who is supported by Maria. This scene is flanked by the three divine virtues of faith, hope and love. The frescoes in some side chapels are attributed to Daniel Gran.

The picture on the high altar, depicting St. Charles Borromeo in the sky, was designed by the older fisherman and executed by Ferdinand Maximilian Brokoff. The altarpieces in the six side chapels are from various artists, including Daniel Gran, Sebastiano Ricci, Martino Altomonte, Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini and Jacob van Schuppen. On the side volutes of two side altars are allegorical figures by the Venetian sculptor Antonio Corradini.

The lighting direction and the architectural structure, especially the high arcade openings in the main axis, have a strong effect. The color is determined by the marble, gold fittings are deliberately used sparingly. The large round glass window high above the main altar with the Hebrew YHWH tetragram symbolizes God's omnipotence and at the same time, by its warm shade of yellow, God's love.

In addition to the fragments of buildings in Schönbrunn that have survived in this form, the Karlskirche is considered Fischer's main work.

There is a baroque organ on the organ gallery with its columned stem, the builder of whom is unknown. The middle case dates from around 1739. However, the instrument was fundamentally modified in 1847 by Joseph Seyberth and equipped with a free-standing game table. Both side wings also date from this period.

The organ builder Gerhard Hradetzky again extensively renovated the instrument in 1989. The Physharmonica was reconstructed. The keyboards were also renewed and the broken octave was expanded chromatically.