Source of Strength: Luegerkirche – Central Cemetery
At the heart of the central cemetery, like a small island in the sea of the dead, is the Luegerkirche or cemetery church of St. Borromeo – a synthesis of art.
Monumental Church Construction – Vienna’s unknown Attraction
The center of Europe’s largest cemetery at the time is supposed to depict God, who is stronger than death.
The majority of the church is to be assigned to Art Nouveau. The sarcophagus of Viennese mayor Dr. Karl Lueger is located in the lower church in the “Mayoral Sepulchre”. That is why the Viennese like to call the church “Luegerkirche”. On 16 June 1911 the church was consecrated to St. Charles Borromeo.
The first notable feature about the church, if you look at it closely, is that the clock faces of the bell tower clocks show letters instead of numbers. Read clockwise they say “TEMPUS FUGIT” in Latin, which translates as ”Time flees”.
The pyramid tops on the front roofs are reminiscent of the famous tombs of ancient Egypt and the belief in life after death. Eternity is represented by the stylized Egyptian handle-cross on the outer facade.
To the left and right of the church are so-called Columbaria, which offer space for wall graves and tombs.
Above the mighty portal of the church two pairs of angels can be seen, one with a cross and crowns of thorns – signs of death and redemption, the other with a chalice and gospel – sign of the Eucharist.
Prominent – The Cupola of the Church
It has a diameter of 22.7 m and a height of 39 m. It is particularly impressive inside the church – the starry sky with 999 stars is an allegory for the omnipresence of God.
The three main staircases, separated by centrally located step shaped wreath placement possibilities, symbolically represent three ways to God. There are also entrances on both sides accessible via steps.
The spacious church interior offers enough space for larger memorial services. The sanctuary located eight steps above the church gives mourners attending memorial services a good view. The paintings above the high altar depict numerous symbols of transience. The pilgrim’s hat with the scallop is a symbol of the way of life. The palm branch means eternal life. The inscription above the high altar: – EGO SUM RESURRECTIO ET VITA – symbolizes the overall message of the Church: God is stronger than death.
From War-damaged to glamorous Building
From the very beginning, the church was not given the attention it deserved and is still an insider tip today – a not so well-known but worthwhile attraction in Vienna. After the Second World War, even the idea of completely demolishing the only slightly damaged church was taken up. It was not until 1952 that the municipality of Vienna had the Art Nouveau style outer dome replaced by a more economical version.
A new window “Christ the Judge of the World” by the artist Lucia Jirgal has replaced the destroyed glass window “Raising of Lazarus” by Leopold Forster.
Unfortunately, it was overlooked at the time that a major damage in the gutters led the rain and snow water so that it flowed under the foundation of the church for decades.
A slow degradation of the church was the result. In the years 1995 – 2000 the church was extensively renovated. In the course of this, a heating system was installed and handicapped-accessible entrance via elevator was created.
Besides the dome, the numerous glass windows and mosaics are particularly worth seeing. The baptismal font is located in the sacristy. Above it is the mosaic: “The Baptism of Jesus”.
The numerous artistically outstanding reliefs and sculptures are noteworthy.
The church is open Mon – Sun from 9am – 4pm.
Guided tours: every 1st Sunday after Holy Mass from approx. 9.45 a.m.
Holy Mass: every Sunday and holiday at 9 am.
Directions: From all Schick Hotels take the U3 to Simmering. Change there to tram 71 – direction central cemetery, 3rd gate (Zentralfriedhof 3.Tor) – exit at the main gate central cemetery 2nd gate – then approx. 10 minutes walk.
Source: Karl Wagner, Gesamtkunstwerk Luegerkirche ISBN 978-3-200-01311-7