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Karlskirche, Vienna

Photo © luxpim. View all images in our Karlskirche Photo Gallery.
Photo © Ramón Durán.
Photo © Andrea Kirkby.
Photo © Andrea Kirkby.

The Karlskirche, or St. Charles Church, is one of Vienna's greatest and most interesting buildings. Commissioned by the emperor in thanks for answered prayer, the unusual Baroque edifice was also designed to glorify the Habsburg Empire.


In 1713, the Black Plague swept through Vienna. Emperor Charles VI made a vow: if the plague left the city, he would build a church dedicated to his namesake, St. Charles Borromeo. St. Charles was a 16th-century Italian bishop famous for ministering to Milanese plague victims.

The emperor's prayer was answered, and construction on the church began in 1715. The Karlskirche was built on what was then the bank of the River Wien and is now the southeast corner of a park complex.

The Baroque master Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach did the original work from 1716 to 1722. After his death in 1723, his son took over and saw the project through to completion in 1737. J. M. Rottmayr painted many of the frescoes inside the church from 1725 to 1730.

What to See

The ambitious, creative design of the Karlskirche combines architectural elements from ancient Greece (the columned portico), ancient Rome (the two Trajanesque columns), and contemporary Viennese Baroque (the dome and towers). The green copper dome rises 236 feet high, making it a major landmark on the Viennese skyline.

The design of the church was never imitated and it was always regarded as something of an architectural curiosity. But this gives it great interest among the more conventional Baroque churches of Austria and it is a rather magical sight, especially when illuminated at night.

Certainly the most surprising feature of the church are the great columns of the facade, designed in direct imitation of Trajan's Column in Rome with a Baroque touch at the top. The reliefs depict scenes from the life St. Charles Borromeo.

The interior of the church is much more conventional than the exterior, with High Baroque decoration. The vault frescoes depict St. Charles Borromeo begging the Holy Trinity to end the plague in the Vienna.

Quick Facts on Karlskirche

Site Information
Names:Church of St. Charles Borromeo; Karlskirche; Karlskirche, Vienna; St. Charles' Church
Faiths:Christianity; Catholic
Visitor and Contact Information
Location:Vienna, Austria
Coordinates:48.198205° N, 16.371646° E  (view on Google Maps)
Lodging:View hotels near this location
Note: This information was accurate when first published and we do our best to keep it updated, but details such as opening hours can change without notice. To avoid disappointment, please check with the site directly before making a special trip.

Map of Karlskirche

Below is a location map and aerial view of Karlskirche. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.


  1. Karlskirche - Fodors.com
  2. Karlskirche (Church of St. Charles) - Frommers.com
  3. Karlskirche - Great Buildings

More Information

Article Info

Title:Karlskirche, Vienna
Author:Holly Hayes
Last updated:01/24/2011
Link code:<a href="http://www.sacred-destinations.com/austria/vienna-karlskirche">Karlskirche, Vienna</a>