Today I am proud to welcome guest blogger and friend Keila to the blog! Keila and I have had many adventures together and she recently went to Vienna and got to see some incredible historic cemeteries. This is a longer post- but her photos are awesome and I wanted to include as many as possible. So- enjoy!
I was lucky enough to be able to visit Vienna, Austria this Christmas. While Austria and Germany are known for their amazing Christmas markets and famous gluhwein (holiday mulled wine) I was excited to visit for another reason, the Zentralfriedhof (Central Cemetery). The Vienna Central Cemetery is one of the world’s largest cemeteries and is the largest in Europe for the number interred there, over 3 million. It is only a short trolley ride from the center of the city and has a dedicated bus line inside in order to help people get around the massive area more easily. There are three gates (tors) at the front of the cemetery for people to enter, with Tor 2 being the main entrance. Foot traffic is free, but there is a toll to get in with a vehicle. This cemetery is unique to most in Europe because unlike many others it was planned. City leaders realized that the city’s population was growing and a large cemetery would be needed to accommodate burials. The opening of the cemetery was also quite controversial as it was one of the first mixed faith cemeteries with a large Catholic section, a Protestant section, and two Jewish sections (there are now also Muslim, Buddhist, and Russian Orthodox burials in the cemetery). There is also a church located in the center of the cemetery called Karl-Borromäus-Kirche (Charles Borromeo Church). It is built in the Art Nouveau style and has undergone several renovations after being bombed during World War II and then later being damaged by subsidence and dampness. There is a crypt beneath the church with the most notable burial being Karl Lueger, a former mayor of Vienna, which has led to the church also being deemed the Karl Lueger Memorial Church.
The day I visited was one of the warmer days of my stay in Vienna with it being in the high 40s. It was sunny and rather pleasant, with a slight breeze. There were many more people there than I expected. Many who also appeared to just be visiting the cemetery in general. When I first entered the cemetery I was struck by how vast it seemed. I was knowingly disappointed that I would not have enough time to explore the whole cemetery, but very excited to see what I could. After walking through the massive gate, I was greeted by two mausoleums on each side of the road. Each contains 36 crypts. These were the most beautifully decorated crypts I have ever seen and each one had me in awe at the exquisitely unique and detailed artwork.
After passing through these awe-inspiring crypts, it was difficult to decide which way to go next. I did what most people do naturally and went to my right. I walked past some very interesting looking headstones, some with trees (purposefully) growing through them, others which were raw stone. Something caught my eye in the distance and I began making my way toward it. Those who are familiar with cemeteries know they are full of statues of the Virgin Mary or veiled angels and women. I thought I was going to come across a statue of Mary holding up Christ, especially when I noticed that the figure was holding someone. When I finally reached it, it was so much better than I thought. Instead of the Virgin, I was facing Death himself, holding his latest passenger. The statue was faceless and had vines growing on it which made it even more hauntingly beautiful and it is my favorite piece of cemetery art to date. I feel like it was speaking to me in a way no other piece has. The passenger appeared calm and relaxed in Death’s grasp, and it reminded me that death comes for us all, but it is not something to be feared.
Another interesting fact about this cemetery is that it is the resting place for many famous composers, artists, actors, musicians, scientists, and other notable people from history. Due to its unpopularity after opening because of its distance from the city, officials set aside an honorary grave area (Ehrengräber). This part of the cemetery was definitely the most crowded with tourists. They moved several famous people from other cemeteries here in order to boost the reputation of the cemetery. Interred in the Central Cemetery are notables such as Ludwig van Beethoven; Franz Schubert, who were moved to the city in 1888; Johannes Brahms; Antonio Salieri; Johann Strauss II and Arnold Schoenberg. A cenotaph honours Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is buried in nearby St. Marx Cemetery. We’ll get to that last one in a moment, but first enjoy some photos of the resting places of these famous composers.
There is much more to tell and this post will be continued next week! See you then! All sources will be listed next week as well in case anyone wants to do further reading.
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