If anyone in Vienna could name just one building, it would be the Stephansdom, St. Stephen's Cathedral. The "Steffl", as the Viennese lovingly call it. Or the Domkirche St. Stephan zu Wien, which is the official title. Regardless of the name, if you are in Vienna, a visit to the Stephansdom is practically obligatory.Alongside the Riesenrad, the Wiener Stephansdom is one of the two main landmarks of the city, and is regarded as the most important gothic building in Austria. Work already began on its construction, however, in the late Romanesque period in the 12th century. The oldest surviving original section is the west façade from the first half of the 13th century. The gothic construction phase began under the Habsburgs – and strictly speaking, the Stephansdom was never fully completed: this is why the North Tower – whose non-completion is the subject of various legends – is only 68 metres high.
True greatness and a grave detailThe south tower of the Stephansdom is regarded as an architectural masterpiece for the time it was built, soaring to a height of 136.4 metres on a foundation that is just 4 metres deep. In numerous details the Stephansdom generally displays special dimensions: alone the lid on the tomb of Kaiser Friedrich III, who was buried in the "Steffl" in 1493, weighs 8 tonnes. He had commissioned his own grave monument himself 26 years beforehand with a sculptor he trusted.
Exploring the StephansdomAnyone who is willing to climb half way up the South Tower on a stone spiral staircase with 343 steps will be rewarded with a magnificent view over Vienna. Tip for less sporting types: you will see more or less the same if you take the lift in the North Tower.
The Stephansdom is easily reached with the U1, which stops on Stephansplatz. The starting times for various special tours, for example up to the Pummerin – the famous bell in the North Tower – or down to the catacombs, can be found on the website of the "Domkirche St. Stephan zu Wien".