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Otto Wagner Kirche am Steinhof - the Most Beautiful Church in Vienna

Updated: May 10

Join us for a visit to the most beautiful church in Vienna - made by the infamous Otto Wagner for the mentally challenged at the Steinhof Lunatic Asylum. You will not regret your visit!

The Otto Wagner church is one of the most beautiful churches you can think of, a true gem of Viennese Art Nouveau. Alongside the Secession, it is a key Art Nouveau work in Vienna and also has similarities with St. Charles Church at the Vienna Central Cemetery . Compared with the dark Nazi history of Otto Wagner’s elegant hospital on the grounds, its beauty is stunning.

The church dominates the Steinhof hill in Penzing, Vienna's 14th district. It was built between 1903 and 1907 by Otto Wagner with mosaics and stained glass by Koloman Moser and sculptural angels by Othmar Schimkovitz. Wagner also designed a great majority of the other smaller details.

A bit unusually the church lies on a north–south axis, at the centre-top of the hospital area. Otto Wagner added quite some features given that he was designing a church as part of an asylum: there are very few sharp edges, most corners are rounded; almost no crosses are visible; the priest's area is potentially entirely separate from the patients'; access to the pulpit is only from the vestry; emergency exits are built into the side walls in case a patient needed to be speedily removed; continuously flowing water replaced holy water stoups at the entrance; there were separate entrances for male and female patients, since gender segregation was mandatory in mental hospitals at the time; and also the confessionals were more open than is customary.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand opened the church on 8 October 1907. He had disapproved of Wagner's Art Nouveau style to the extent that he refused to acknowledge Wagner during the opening ceremony and later, he refused to commission any further work from him. At the same time, the New Free Press wrote an article about the church on 6 October asking "is it not a beautiful irony of fate, that the first sensible secessionist building in Vienna has been built for the insane?"

In the eighties, the City of Vienna refurbished the church and the dome and angels’ wings were recovered with over two kilos of gold. The four giant angels are among the best Art Nouveau sculptures you will find in Europe. Should you be interested, the church was the motif of one of the most famous euro collectors coins: the Austrian 100 euro Steinhof Church commemorative coin minted on 9 November 2005.

The church is unfortunately not good for persons in wheelchairs or with prams as the it can only be entered via steps and the square in front of the church is covered with gravel. Moreover, there is no loo.

There are coat racks in the entrance area. At the ticket office desk, there is a small stand with items on sale including books about Wagner and the church and some post cards.

There is no café in the church or actually anywhere around. You may need to return to the centre for a refreshing coffee or a glass of wine after your visit.

As you are in Steinhof, you might also consider visiting the two other museums in the compound. Check our reviews at Gedenkstätte am Steinhof for the dreadful history of the Nazi medicine in Austria and Vienna's Queer Museum .

Otto Wagner Kirche am Steinhof

Baumgartner Höhe 1, A-1140 Vienna


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