The St. Ruprecht’s Church


The St. Ruprecht's church is the oldest church in Vienna. Legend has it was founded in the year 740 by two monks from Salzburg, named Chuniald and Gislar. The earliest documented evidence is from 1200. It refers to the donation of the St. Ruprecht’s church to the monastery Schottenstift by the Duke of Austria, Heinrich II of Babenberg.

The church is dedicated to the St. Rupert (died 715/716). He began his career as the Bishop of Worms but later spent ten years building up a Christian community in Salzburg. St. Rupert's Day is celebrated every year on the 24th of September. He is the patron saint of the salt shippers and the city of Salzburg. St. Ruprecht's church has a well documented historical relationship with the medieval salt-business.



From the Romanesque to Present

The oldest standing walls of St. Ruprechts's church date back to the early 12th century: these are the walls of the main chapel, the gallery and the lower levels of the church tower. The tower was built in the traditional Romanesque style including the typical double windows. After a massive fire damaged almost all of inner city Vienna in 1276, the church was rebuilt in Gothic style. The main chapel was built with a Gothic apse along with another floor added to the tower. Two of the still functioning bells date back to the 13th century. These bells are up to this day attached to their holdster without screws. In the 14th century it was necessary to enlarge the church. Then it was expanded by a gothic styled side chapel.

From the Middle Ages up to the 19th century beside the church tower was the so called Praghaus. From time to time it was one of the residences of the dukes of the House of Babenberg. The dukes had a direct passage way from the Praghaus to the gallery of the church. The Praghaus housed the primary salt office from 1500 to 1824. The salt from the Salzkammergut, a salt-mine area located in the Austrian mountains, was brought here by ship and was stored and sold here. In return the salt office had to maintain the building. Soon after the trading restrictions on salt were lifted (1824), the Praghaus was demolished (1832). Approximately one hundred years later St. Ruprecht's church and neighbouring buildings including the church registry were remodelled. The renovations at the end of the 20th century primarily focused on the basic structure of the building as well as preparing the interior for more contemporary services. They tried to achieve quality and plainness to allow people to concentrate on what is really important.



The Windows

The middle window of the apse has survived since 1270 and is therefore the oldest glass window in Vienna. In the upper portion it depicts Jesus on the cross with Mary and John, and beneath the Madonna with Child. Both of the side windows (Heinrich Tahedl, 1949) show St. Rupert as a teacher as well as a bishop with the church founders Chuniald and Gislar. In the early 1990s the church got new glass windows designed by Lydia Roppolt (1922-1995). Three of them – depicting Daniel in the Lions' den, Jona in the whale, and Three youths in the furnace - tell about how praising God will save one from worst affliction. The new window in the apse shows the history of St. Ruprecht's founders Chuniald and Gislar. All the other windows carry the theme of praising creation in an abstract way.



The Interior

The dominant feature of the main chapel is a baroque style crucifix that dates back to at least 1765. The base stones of the altar are Romanesque, but in 1703 a baroque styled high altar was built around these base stones. It was removed in 1986 to achieve a plainer look. Since then the community gathers around the altar during the services. Three pillars separate the main chapel from the side chapel. On one of them there is a small statue of St. Rupert (14th century), on another a late gothic statue of St. Mary and child (ca 1515) in an unusual pose: The child doesn’t look at the observer but at St. Mary as he grasps her braids.


On the side altar stands a tabernacle made of cast bronze and staves (the wooden planks used to make barrels) designed by Ignaz Kienast in 1998. Also found in the side chapel is a baptismal font made of Adneter Marble with a Latin inscription „A+M+D+Y+E+M” (anno MD in aeternam memoriam) which translates to „in eternal commemoration of the year 1500”.


Beside the gallery there is the picture that once hung over the high altar (Johann Georg Schmidt, about 1720) depicting St. Rupert with angels and his attributes: a crozier, a book and a salt jar. Next to the entrance of the registry there is a relief of St. Rupert made in the early 16th century. In a small vestry in the basement of the tower there are statues of Joachim and Anne as well as an ebony statue of Mary entitled „Loretomadonna“.



In the gallery there is plate to commemorate the visit of Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich III. The tablet is inscribed with the personal emblem of Friedrich „A.E.I.O.U.“ and the date 1439. On the north wall of the church stands the sarcophagus of St. Vitalis, a martyr from the Roman catacombs. The skeleton is clothed in baroque styled garments. Missing body-parts were replaced with wax replicas. The martyr is there to remind people of the victims of persecution for their descents or beliefs.