If you’ve been to Vienna, Austria, you will recognize this symbol of the city. St. Stephen’s Cathedral, located at the heart of Vienna in the Stephansplatz (Stephen’s Plaza), is the home church of the Roman Catholic church in Vienna. It is enormous, has a colorful roof, and is filled with beautiful art. It was built on the foundation of several ancient churches, and has long been known as a symbol of Austrian identity. It is still an active church, as well as being the #1 attraction for tourists in Vienna. You can attend daily church services, listen to concerts, climb high up into the cathedral, or explore below grounds in the catacombs. In WWII, the cathedral was damaged by fire. It was repaired in 7 years by a dedicated city.
Download a larger image and share the photo with your class, then try these discussion questions and classroom activities:
- The cathedral has a long history. Mozart attended this church! Read the historical timeline and discuss the immense amount of labor – and belief – involved in building, repairing, and maintaining the cathedral. Learn about the meaning of “O5” carved in the doors of the cathedral. What other symbols are scattered throughout the cathedral?
- Watch this video by travel writer Rick Steves. What interests you most about the cathedral? Look at 2:05 and 2:30 in the video – are you surprised by the humor in these marble sculptures?
- Listen to the sounds of the cathedral (called Gelaut der Pummerin). The bell is called Pummerin (Boomer)! Learn more about the bells, and discuss the role of bells in the cathedral. Were they used to call people to worship? To remind citizens of the cathedral? Or something else?
- The cathedral has a famous, colorful roof. There is also a weathercock located on the back roof, for protection from the devil. And, there is artwork located both inside and out. Look at these highlights – which is your favorite? Why?