Beautiful Things to See When Visiting Peterskirche in Vienna

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As a Catholic from Asia, I find European cities to be very interesting destinations. They’re home to some of the most beautiful churches in the world and are the go-to places for Catholics wanting to discover their rich religious heritage. While Vienna may not be the center of Catholicism in Europe, it boasts many impressive churches undoubedly worth seeing.

In fact, one doesn’t have to leave the city’s historic center to find many beautiful churches. Some that I’ve discovered there, I can definitely consider as the gems of Old Town Vienna. The most iconic of these Viennese churches is Stephansdom, but did you know there’s another magnificent church just a few steps from it? It’s Peterskirche.

Much like the Baroque church of Karlskirche situated just across Ringstrasse, Peterskirche stands as a magnificent architectural wonder that’s a must-see for explorers. It’s also a free attraction in Vienna, making it a no-brainer for those seeking beauty. And as a place where you can witness the beauty of Vienna, Peterskirche is an essential stop on any journey through the Old Town. Do not forget to include Peterskirche to your plans if you want to explore the Old Town!

Allow me to guide you through the stunning sights inside and provide you with some handy tips and visitor information.

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The facade and the oval dome of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
The facade and the oval dome of Peterskirche
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Author’s Notes

When I saw the interior of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral (or Stephansdom) while exploring Old Town Vienna, I was convinced that it was the most impressive religious landmark in Vienna. But my mind quickly changed when my sight landed at Peterskirche’s interiors. I went from thinking “Stephansdom is undoubtedly the most stunning” to “Well, I’m not really sure anymore. Peterskirche is just magnificent!” Actually, it’s hard to compare, because they have such different styles. Stephansdom is a mix of Gothic and Baroque, while Peterskirche is purely Baroque. Stephansdom draws you in with its mystery, while Peterskirche awes you with its grandeur.

The Beauty of Peterskirche

It’s hard to determine which church is more breathtaking, Stephansdom or Peterskirche. However, it’s undeniable that Peterskirche ranks among the most exquisite Baroque churches in Vienna. With its ceiling painted with bright and colorful frescoes; interiors heavily embellished with gilded Baroque reliefs and sculptures, it’s easy to see why Peterskirche deserves the title. In my opinion, the only church that can equal to Peterskirche’s beauty is Karlskirche.

Interestingly, Peterskirche is not only beautiful, but also historic. It is the oldest church and parish in Vienna, and has been a sacred site for centuries, hosting Holy Masses since the early middle ages. Some even say that Emperor Charlemagne himself founded Peterskirche. But none gives proof to this claim.

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Please see the gallery of Peterskirche below.

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Inspired by the glorious Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Italy, the current design of Peterskirche is a stunning sight to behold. Peterskirche’s current architectural style, which is Baroque, suggests that the church has been remodeled at least once, and this is true. The current physical structure of Peterskirche was constructed only a few hundred years ago. To be precise, the church was finished in the year 1733.

If you have the opportunity to hear the organ music resonating within the church while admiring its stunning interiors, you’ll likely feel a chill run down your spine. This could be one of the most awe-inspiring, goosebump-inducing experiences you can have in Vienna. It might also serve as a powerful moment of prayer, especially if you’re Catholic.

Beautiful Things to See Inside

Compared to Stephansdom, Peterskirche appears like a medium-sized church, especially since it has only one nave.  But I was amazed by its interior for several minutes. There are many beautiful things to see inside Peterskirche and they are everywhere.

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Illusionist artworks in the narthex of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
Illusionist artworks in the narthex of Peterskirche
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Like, right when you enter the church, in the narthex, you are already surrounded by artworks if you look around. The ceiling and the walls next to the main portal and the doors have murals painted in Trompe-l’œil style. They look like real columns, pediments over the doorways, and relief decorations, but they are all paintings, not real. It’s hard to believe at first glance.

As you step further inside Peterskirche, you enter a kaleidoscopic world of religious artworks. Along the nave, you can find six ornate chapels, each with a large and beautiful painting that depicts biblical stories.

Before you reach the center of the nave from the narthex, you will surely also notice the pews, or long benches, in the nave of Peterskirche. Cute baby angel heads decorate the pews, which makes me admire the church even more. It also makes me applaud the makers of Peterskirche for the attention they paid to detail, ensuring that all parts of the church are masterpieces.

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The six chapels along the nave of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
The six chapels along the nave of Peterskirche
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The larger chapels between the small chapels have golden retables, which are definitely a treasure. Statues of saints and historical figures flank the altar in each chapel, giving it an overall dramatic appearance, which typically gives spiritual inspiration to worshipers.

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Left — small chapel, Right — big chapel in Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
Left — small chapel, Right — big chapel in Peterskirche
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Above the altars are colorful biblical frescoes, further enhancing the appearances of the chapels.

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Beautiful murals above the altars of the chapels of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
Beautiful murals above the altars of the chapels of Peterskirche
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When you reach the center of the nave, look up. You will see the largest artwork that uses both dimensions and light to impress—the oval dome.

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Left is the part of the dome near the choir, right is the part of the dome near the narthex of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
Left is the part of the dome near the choir, right is the part of the dome near the narthex of Peterskirche
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The dome is painted with a dramatic scene of the Holy Spirit surrounded by angels and saints on the clouds—the scene of the sky when Jesus was baptized. The dove image of the Holy Spirit is located at the lantern of the dome, which allows an entry for light that gives the dome a more sanctified appearance.

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The dove image of the Holy Spirit at the lantern of Peterskirche’s dome, Vienna, Austria
The dove image of the Holy Spirit at the lantern of Peterskirche’s dome
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The last time I checked, near the entrance of the church, there is a large photo of the dome that you can look at. This can help you see the details of the dome without hurting your neck. But I think you would appreciate the beauty of the dome even more if you see it for yourself in actuality, especially when you notice the church’s pendentive — the part where the dome and the walls of the church join.

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Illusionist painting of one of the doctors of the Church on the pendentive of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
Illusionist painting of one of the doctors of the Church on the pendentive of Peterskirche
The coat of arms of the Habsburgs at the pendentive of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
The coat of arms of the Habsburgs at the pendentive of Peterskirche
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The pendentive of Peterskirche is amazing. It has a painting of saints that looks like 3D, with their clothes overlapping another layer of the pendentive. Beneath the pendentive, you can see the magnificent galleries. Elaborated with golden elements, anyone could think of these galleries like balconies for royalties.

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Galleries above between the chapels and pendentive of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
Galleries above between the chapels and pendentive of Peterskirche
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The most magnificent gallery, however, has to be the gallery above the narthex where you can admire Peterskirche’s splendid organ. The organ’s main instrument was built in the early 20th century, but the casing is much older. It dates back to the mid-18th-century and it is covered with shimmering gold and silver ornaments.

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The organ gallery of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
The organ gallery of Peterskirche
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Facing the organ, you can behold the high altar of Peterskirche, which is a marvel of religious art and architecture. It has an altarpiece that depicts a miraculous scene: the Healing of the Lame by St. Peter and St. John in Jerusalem.

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Peterskirche’s high altar, Vienna, Austria
Peterskirche’s high altar
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The altarpiece is set in a glorious frame of golden Corinthian columns and encircled by statues of saints and angels. And indeed, the high altar looks like a portal that transports you to a heavenly realm.

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The pulpit, the high altar, and the golden sculpture of Peterskirche, Vienna, Austria
The pulpit, the high altar, and the golden sculpture of Peterskirche
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As you turn your eyes to the high altar, you are dazzled by the golden pulpit and the golden sculpture that face each other. They are the two artistic gems of Peterskirche, and they are breathtaking. The pulpit is covered with gold, and it makes you feel that the priest who preaches from it has a divine authority. The golden sculpture of the Holy Trinity above the pulpit reinforces this impression.

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Peterskirche’s pulpit and the statues of the Holy Trinity on top of the pulpit, Vienna, Austria
Peterskirche’s pulpit and the statues of the Holy Trinity on top of the pulpit
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The golden sculpture across the pulpit, however, shows the martyrdom of Saint John of Nepomuk with the Virgin Mary watching over him. The sculpture is a powerful reminder for Catholics to remain faithful no matter what, because they have the protection of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God.

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The golden sculpture depicting the martyrdom of Saint John of Nepomuk, size view and zoomed in shot, Vienna, Austria
The golden sculpture depicting the martyrdom of Saint John of Nepomuk, size view and zoomed in shot
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More Pictures

Truly, Peterskirche is a beautiful church that can inspire us Catholics with its religious art and atmosphere. But even if you are not Catholic, you can still enjoy visiting Peterskirche. It’s a part of the cultural and historical heritage of Vienna, and it has a stunning architecture that will impress you. Here are some more pictures of Peterskirche that will make you want to see it for yourself.

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Concerts

One of the best things you can do at Peterskirche is to attend a concert there. Everyday at 3:00 pm, there’s a free organ concert inside Peterskirche. But you can also try the more special concert, which is a unique opportunity to appreciate the beauty and history of the church, while enjoying some of the finest classical music ever composed.

You will hear works by Vivaldi, Schubert, Beethoven, and Haydn, performed by talented musicians in a stunning setting. The special concert is only an hour long, so it won’t take too much of your time. If you are interested in the concerts at Peterskirche, you can check out these sites: regular season concerts and Christmas season concerts.

Visiting Information

What’s so great about Peterskirche is that you don’t have to pay anything to visit the church. You can just walk in and look around whenever you want, as long as there is no mass or service going on. You can find the schedule of the religious events and activities at Peterskirche on their official website (see the resources section).

To save you some time, I checked the website for you and found out that Peterskirche is open from 8:00 am to 7:00 pm on weekdays and 9:00 am to 7:00 pm on weekends. If you decide to go, make sure you dress appropriately to show respect to the church and the people who are praying there.

Peterskirche is near a street called Graben, which goes to Stephansplatz (where you can find Stephansdom). It is not far from Stephansdom, only 300 meters. You can walk there in less than 5 minutes.

Resources

I hope you liked reading my post about Peterskirche and found it helpful. If you want to see more posts like this, please share this post with your friends. It will support me a lot in creating more content like this. To learn more about Peterskirche, you can check out these links that I think are useful. 

If you’re planning a trip to Vienna and need a hotel, this is where you can find the best deals in the city. The link will direct you to a hotel search platform with a map feature, helping you locate hotels in the most convenient locations for you. This is an affiliate link, which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you when you book through it. It’s a fantastic way to support WanderInEurope, enabling me to create more guides like this that could assist you in your future travels. Thank you for your support.

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If you’re looking to explore churches beyond Vienna’s city limits, consider a visit to Melk Abbey — a UNESCO World Heritage site. Just a short journey from the city, it’s a spectacular day trip from Vienna, along with Salzburg and the castles of Lower Austria, including Kreuzenstein Castle, Liechtenstein Castle, and Laxenburg Castle.

For more local splendor, don’t miss Vienna’s elegant palaces like Schonbrunn, Hofburg, and Belvedere. Not only do they boast stunning architecture, but they also house notable exhibits, from Empress Sisi and Empress Theresa’s royal artifacts to Gustav Klimt’s masterpieces.

By the way, did you know that Vienna’s museums are as grand as palaces? Be sure to check out the Kunsthistorisches Museum and the Museum of Military History – they’re my personal favorites! And if you’re after breathtaking views or photogenic spots, I recommend the Danube Tower or the Gloriette in the Schonbrunn Palace garden park.

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2 Comments

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