Karlskirche in Vienna, Austria

The magnificent Baroque Karlskirche on the square of the same name in the centre of Vienna is a landmark of Vienna and, along with Schönbrunn Palace, is considered a masterpiece of the court architect Fischer von Erlach.

One of Vienna's most impressive churches is located on Karlsplatz, very close to the no less imposing State Opera House. The Karlskirche on the south side of Karlsplatz is one of Vienna's most important places of worship and ranks high on the list of the most important Baroque churches north of the Alps.


PICTURES: Karlskirche in Vienna

Photo gallery: Karlskirche in Vienna

Construction of the Karlskirche

The two 33m high relief columns on the left and right of the entrance portal of the Karlskirche in Vienna, Austria, are reminiscent of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

The Charles Church was commissioned by Emperor Charles VI, who vowed to build a church in St. Stephen's Cathedral for his namesake, Charles Borromeo, who was also considered a plague saint, in order to ward off the Black Death from Vienna.

The foundation stone was laid on 4 February 1716. The construction was supervised by the famous imperial and royal court architect Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, who was also responsible for the construction of Schönbrunn Palace and the Vienna Hofburg.

Symbolic connection between East and West

The relief above the entrance of the Karlskirche shows the rescue of the city of Vienna from the plague, Austria - © FRASHO / franks-travelbox
© FRASHO / franks-travelbox

Since the Charles Church was to function as a central link between Rome and Byzantium, the architect based his design on the world-famous Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, a Roman temple portico and the impressive Trajan's Column in Rome.

The two 33m high relief columns to the left and right of the entrance portal and the monumental dome with a diameter of 25 and a height of 72 metres are clear reminders of the former. The relief above the entrance to the Karlskirche shows how the city of Vienna was saved from the plague at the request of Charles Borromeo.

After the master builder's death in 1723, the building was completed by his son Joseph Emanuel by 1739. Until 1918, the Karlskirche was the patron parish church of the Austrian Emperor; today it is again a parish church and the seat of the Catholic university parish of the Vienna University of Technology, which is located nearby.

Visit to the Karlskirche

The choir room of Vienna's Karlskirche is dominated by ornate frescoes and marble, Austria - © AndresGarciaMartin/Shutterstock
© AndresGarciaMartin/Shutterstock

The interior of the magnificent church is dominated by ornate wall and ceiling frescoes, as well as precious marble; gold jewellery was deliberately used sparingly.


The magnificent altarpiece depicting the Assumption of St. Charles Borromeo into the Kingdom of Heaven was designed by the builder Fischer von Erlach and executed by Maximilian Brokoff. The warm yellow window above the main altar symbolises God's omnipotence and love.

With the panorama lift to the dome fresco

The fantastic frescoes in the Karlskirche in Vienna can be viewed in detail via a panoramic lift at a height of 32 metres, Austria - © Jule_Berlin / Shutterstock
© Jule_Berlin / Shutterstock

The altarpieces on the side altars are by various artists and the remarkable organ fresco was created by Johann Michael Rottmayr. Since 2002, the fantastic frescoes in the Karlskirche can be viewed in detail via a panorama lift at a height of 32 metres, which was originally installed for the restoration.

Although the functional lift somewhat detracts from the imposing overall impression of the church, the paying tourists gladly accept the opportunity to view the ornate dome frescoes in detail. Thus, the panorama lift has remained in place until today and was not dismantled again in 2005, as had been planned.

Related links:

Official website of the Karlskirche in Vienna with opening hours and admission prices