The Karlskirche is one of the iconic buildings of Vienna. When plague struck Vienna in 1713 and took nearly 13000 Viennese victims, this part of Vienna was wooded meadows alongside the Wien river. Today it is the axis of a huge open space in central Vienna. Indeed planners have argued over the centuries how to organise the huge space with this gigantic masterpiece as a backdrop. Johannes Brahms lived just round the corner from it. The famed Musikverein concert hall is within easy walking distance. Yet the first time I saw it back in the late 1960s it seemed to be out on a limb and rather dingy. Inside seemed too short and dark. In fact it is 262 feet long and 197 feet wide.Today is very different..
Emperor Charles VI pledged this church for the plague victims and dedicated it to St Carlo Borromeo (1538-1584 a former Archbishop of Milan and saint of plague victim). In the contest to design it, the victor was Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach. He worked on it until his death in 1723 and his son finished it in 1737.
The building symbolises Church and Emire with the cross on the dome the power of God and the two triumphal arches the power of the Emperor. The porch is like a Greek temple and the huge columns remind one of the column of Trajan in Rome. The two huge bell towers have even been said to be pagoda like.
Inside the 236 foot dome Gaetano Fanti created trompe l'oeil paintings at the lower edge and Johann Michael Rottmayr, in 1725-30, the huge fresco of St Borromeo begging the Trinity to end the plague. Rottmayr also did the smaller paintings in the choir vault, chapels and above the organ.Back in 2007 major work was being undertaken in the dome. Our photos show the restoration of the frescos. A huge platform has been erected and visitors can still use this to get astounding closeup views of the ceiling. of the dome as the restoration continues.
The high altar was designed by Fischer von Erlach shows Borromeo rising through the clouds toward the Divine Light. This and other stucco work is by Albert Camesina.
During our visit this spring in 2017 we went to Saturday night Mass where local soldiers were having a special occasion in full uniform and the organist entertained us with music in the best possible taste (some doubtful vibrato effects).
|Borromeo in the dome|
|Another view of the dome|
|View into dome with scaffolding|
|Another view of the scaffolding|