“Vota mea reddam in conspectu timentium deum”

The high altar from the back of the church. As you can see, the seating area does not accommodate many - it's only designed for about 200 parishioners at one time
The high altar from the back of the church. As you can see, the seating area does not accommodate many – it’s only designed for about 200 parishioners at one time
The organ at Karlskirche
The organ at Karlskirche

Karlskirche or St. Charles Church is a magnificent example of Baroque architecture in the heart of Vienna. And let’s be honest, Vienna is no slouch where Baroque architecture is concerned. The church was built to commemorate the lives of 8,000 people who died during the 1713-14 plague epidemic in the city. It was dedicated to St. Charles Borromeo, patron saint of plague sufferers as well as personal patron saint of Emperor Charles VI, who was Holy Roman Emperor at the time. Construction on the church began in 1716 and continued for 20 years.

The church is Baroque, but it also combines classical Roman and Greek elements on the portico and arches as well as Byzantine and Ottoman architecture with the many domes and towers. The bas-relief columns at the front of the church echo back to Trajan’s Column in Rome. The interior of the church is lavish in decor with colored marble and rich paintings – Charles VI insisted regions all over the empire contribute building materials to the church, making it a votive church for the whole empire, which at that time included Sardinia, Naples, Milan, the Spanish Netherlands, and the Hungarian Crown lands in addition to Austria itself.
Close-up of the dome - I made it off the elevator before my fear of heights got the better of me, and I had to go down. What I did see was amazing, and as a bonus, I clearly entertained the Austrian teenager manning the elevator.
Close-up of the dome – I made it off the elevator before my fear of heights got the better of me, and I had to go down. What I did see was amazing, and as a bonus, I clearly entertained the Austrian teenager manning the elevator.
Another close-up of the dome.
Another close-up of the dome.
When I was there, the interior of the church was undergoing renovations – a temporary lift was installed in 2002 that allows you to reach a platform high above the main floor but just below the dome. It offers a unique perspective on the artwork detail that is hard to see from the ground. Suspended underneath the platform is an art installation called Palimpsest by Hannes Mlenek, a modern piece in stark contrast to its centuries-old surroundings.
The exterior of Karlskirche from the side
The exterior of Karlskirche from the side
One of the two victory columns at the front of the church
One of the two victory columns at the front of the church
Scale model at the back of the church
Scale model at the back of the church
Finally, a fun fact: Hedy Lamarr, the American actress of Austrian descent, was married in the church in 1933.
Another view of the dome and the
Another view of the dome and the “Palimpsest”
Each of the church arches inside was decorated with marble columns and a marble cornice
Each of the church arches inside was decorated with marble columns and a marble cornice
Detail of one of the pews
Detail of one of the pews
Detail of two of the marble niches along the side wall of the nave
Detail of two of the marble niches along the side wall of the nave
Title quote: Latin for “I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear Him” Psalm XXI – inscription on the front of Karlskirche
The ceiling of one of the chapels
The ceiling of one of the chapels
The organ at Karlskirche
The organ at Karlskirche
The temporary elevator and staircase for those brave enough to get up close to the dome.
The temporary elevator and staircase for those brave enough to get up close to the dome.
Close-up of just two of the massive marble pillars inside the church.
Close-up of just two of the massive marble pillars inside the church.
These two were one of the exhibits in the church's museum.
These two were one of the exhibits in the church’s museum.
Another of the exhibits in the museum - Mary looks much different here than in most depictions: fuller face, lighter coloring.
Another of the exhibits in the museum – Mary looks much different here than in most depictions: fuller face, lighter coloring.
The majority of the artifacts in the museum were church items used during Mass over the church's history, like this cross.
The majority of the artifacts in the museum were church items used during Mass over the church’s history, like this cross.
Each of the chapels dotted around the edge of the nave included beautiful paintings in vivid colors
Each of the chapels dotted around the edge of the nave included beautiful paintings in vivid colors
View of the dome taken while safely planted on the ground floor of the church
View of the dome taken while safely planted on the ground floor of the church
The two angels at the front of the Karlskirche stand sentry out over the plaza.
The two angels at the front of the Karlskirche stand sentry out over the plaza.
One of the two angels in front of the church
One of the two angels in front of the church

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