Empress Maria Theresa who ruled from 1740 to 1780 is remembered with affection
in all the provinces of her
vast empire. Her first years in charge (1740-48) were very difficult, because her accession to the throne was
challenged by the King of Prussia who disclaimed the Pragmatic Sanction, by which her father Charles VI in 1724
had established that females should not be excluded from the succession line, thus amending the ancient Salic law.
After her rights were eventually recognized in 1748 she embarked on a vast plan of economic reforms, based on modern economic principles one of which preached an accurate assessment of the country's human and material resources; in 1754 the first census of the population showed that Vienna had 175,000 inhabitants, many of whom living outside the walls.
1783 print showing Mariahilferkirche (right) and Stittkirche (left)
Most of the churches built in this part of Vienna were parish churches, but a few of them were of different origin: a common feature they share is the vertical thrust of their bell towers.
Stittkirche and Mariahilferkirche today
Stittkirche (the church of the city garrison) and to a lesser degree Mariahilferkirche have fašades which follow Italian patterns with stucco decorations and niches with statues of saints. The final parts of their bell towers, however, give them a very Austrian appearance.
Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Holy Trinity): details
Dreifaltigkeitskirche is another church which combines an exuberant stucco decoration with a bell tower topped with a traditional onion-shaped structure.
The tall bell towers of some of these churches were added at a later point.
Emperor Joseph II promoted a more "national" style and in 1784 he
declared German the official language of the empire.
A 1780 print (used today as the brand label for a wine) shows that originally Piaristenkirche had a very different appearance with the two bell towers just slightly higher than the church. The alterations gave a Neoclassic touch to the upper part of the fašade and greatly enhanced the vertical thrust of the bell towers.
Garde Kirche and Salesianerinnenkirche
Not all XVIIIth century churches are dominated by tall bell towers: in some of them prominence is given to the dome; the church now called after the Salesians (a Catholic religious order), was once part of a nunnery founded by Empress Amalia, wife of Joseph I: the fašade shows the design of an Italian architect, Felice d'Allio.
Dome of Salesianerinnenkirche seen from the Belvedere in a 1760 painting by Bernardo Bellotto
The dome of Salesianerinnenkirche can best be seen from the Belvedere gardens: it stands as a landmark in a fine painting by Bernardo Bellotto, nephew of Canaletto, whom the monarchs of Central Europe asked to celebrate in his paintings their much embellished capitals. He spent more than ten years in Vienna, where he was known by the name of his uncle.
Houses near St. Ulrichskirche
Some of the XVIIIth century churches are now surrounded by modern buildings, as the once almost suburban areas where they were built have
become highly priced commercial districts. Ulrichskirche, a church without tall bell towers, and a few houses around retain their old peaceful
atmosphere; although I could not definitely ascertain it, an elegant house in the street flanking the church is still decorated with the portraits
of Empress Maria Theresa (dressed as an XVIIIth century lady) and her husband Emperor Francis Stephan of Lorraine (wearing ancient Roman garments).
The difference is explained by the fact that Maria Theresa, because of the Salic law, could not be appointed Holy Roman Emperor, so she managed to
have this title conferred on her husband.
The image used as a background for this page shows a detail of S. Maria delle Fornaci, an XVIIIth century church of Rome built without its walls.
Pages in this section of the website in recommended order:
Introduction: the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nations
The 1683 Siege of Vienna
XVIIth century churches
XVIIth century palaces
Monuments celebrating the end of plagues
The walls of Vienna
XVIIIth century churches
XVIIIth century palaces
Italian sculpture and sculptors
A political manifesto: Karlskirche
Churches without the walls
Palaces and Villas without the walls
A day in the countryside: Perchtoldsdorf