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St. Leopold’s Church at the Steinhof


St. Leopold’s Church at the Steinhof

I was wondering for quite a long time what kind of an interesting building with a golden dome can be seen from a long distance in the in the 14th district of Vienna (Penzing). So I have decided to visit the St. Leopold’s Church at the Steinhof (official name) on my own.

Modern church

The church is also known as the Otto Wagner Church, after the architect, who designed it for his time (1904 – 1907) in a very progressive and unusual style. It was the first church in Europe built in the modern Art Nouveau style.

Church of Fools

The Art Nouveau style in which the church was to be built also provided outrage among the people of Vienna, who opposed the construction of the church in the city. There was a general opinion that such a modern crazy church belonged ideally to a madhouse complex. Therefore, the church was actually built on the premises of the Social Medicine Center Baumgartner Höhe in Vienna.

The motto of the building?

“The form and shape of the building must be adapted to its function,” or “Art knows only one master – the need.” This were the credos of the architect Otto Wagner.

Absolute adaptation to the purpose

Since the church was to be built for mentally ill patients of the center resp. their doctors and nurses, the construction was completely adapted to this intention.

Church’s floor is sloping from the south entrance towards the sanctuary. The reason was not only a better view from the back rows, but also a simplification of the washing of the floor for hygienic reasons.

There is a first aid room inside of the church, where a doctor was present during the opening hours of the church, as well as a built-in toilet, which was rare at the time.

The benches of the church have rounded edges, confessionals are open and the legs of the benches are lined with copper plates to reduce the risk of an injury or tripping.

The benches have different lengths due to the division of patients into calm, partly calm and restless (e.g. benches for 4 people are designed for 2 restless patients and 2 nurses).

Another sensation, there is a reservoir to be filled with holy water, which than drops downwards so that visitors can catch the drops in the air, this method prevents infection.

On a lemon hill

The Steinhof complex, in which the church is located, is often called the lemon hill (Lemoniberg) obviously after the golden dome of the church, which resembles a half of a lemon.

Part of the church in Czechoslovakia

During the Second World War, stained mosaic glass windows were kept in Czechoslovakia for their protection. In 1950, they were returned to the church.

The irony of fate

St. Leopold’s Church at the Steinhof once rejected by the citizens because of his “crazy”, modern style, today one of the three best known and most acclaimed works of Art Nouveau in Vienna (about the other two sometimes in another post).

Unfortunately, I could not take photos of the interior of the church, as the church is closed to the public due to corona.


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