Augustinerkirche Church Vienna:
The Oldest Part of the Hofburg

The Augustinerkirche or Augustinian Church in Vienna in the background of Alfred Hrdlicka's anti-war and anti-Fascism memorial

Don′t let the neo-Gothic face mislead you: The Augustinerkirche Church is not one of the many 19th or even 20th century extensions of the Hofburg, but actually one of the oldest parts of the palace. Once part of a monastery (some chunks of this monastery are now incorporated into the Albertina Museum), it was started in the 1330ies. Little from the outside would tell you that, but once you enter, you will recognise the age from the original Gothic vaulting. However, the primary attractions are actually the richly decorated tombs, some of which were added only some 200 years ago.

Museum of Graphics: The Albertina, nextdoors

The "Christinendenkmal" ("Christine′s Memorial") is the most elaborate of these. It is dedicated to Maria Christina, the favourite daughter of Empress Maria Theresia (and this means quite a lot, as she had a dozen or so to choose from). The memorial was built on order by her widower, Duke Albrecht of Saxo-Tetschen. The tomb itself has the shape of a pyramid that is flanked by marble mourners.

At its time, the tomb was among the most expensive in Europe (obviously not counting historical ones like the Egyptian pyramids or the Mausoleum…I am just trying to make the point that it was really, really expensive). The tomb is empty, by the way, as Maria Christina is actually buried in the Kaisergruft like every proper Habsburg.

Some of Vienna′s Most Impressive Tombs

The mason in charge was Antonio Canova from Venice and since this was widely considered his masterpiece, the pupils from his workshop created a very similar tomb for their master after he had died. More tombs of the pompous kind can be found in the Georgskapelle ("George′s Chapel). Here it is worth noting that the Austrian craze for elaborate graves and tombs that is still very alive today did not really kick in until the early 19th century.

Empress Maria Theresia: Gave her heart to the Augustine monks

Before then, there were times in which bodies had to be taken to their graves in re-usable coffins and burials in mass grave were the rule (thus the legend that Mozart ended up in a pauper′s grave, which is at most semi-true). Anyway, once the laws on plain funerals was given up, wealthy Viennese started to compete for the most elaborate grave (a peculiar tradition still very alive all over Austria today).

The Georgskapelle contains the similarly empty marble tomb of Emperor Leopold II, who ruled over Austria during its Baroque peak for less than two years between 1790 and 1792. An even more elaborate tomb is the one of Count Leopold Daun, a general in the Austrian-Prussian war who won the Battle of Kolin in 1757 for Empress Maria Theresia.

Creepy Sight: The Hearts of the Habsburgs

He can be spotted on the Maria Theresia Memorial between the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Naturhistorisches Museum. The battle was pretty much the only victory of Austria in that war, but hey, at least it secured Daun a top-location for both his tomb and memorial.

A final highlight of the Augustinerkirche Church is the Lorettokapelle that contains the Herzgrüftl (Heart Crypt): Here you can marvel at a neat array of 54 silver urns containing the hearts of Habsburg family members. Since this site is loaded with anecdotes, you might want to attend one of the daily guided tours.

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Other Parts of the Hofburg

Hofburg Introduction - Albertina - Kaiserappartements - Schatzkammer Treasury - Neue Burg Gardens & Heldenplatz - Museums of Ethnology & Ephesos  - National Library - Augustinerkirche - Spanish Riding School - Burgkapelle & Vienna Boys' Choir - Arms Collection & Old Instruments

Further Reading

Official website of the Vienna Tourist Information

Augustinerkirche in the Hofburg

More Information on the Augustinerkirche Church