Over at the cathedral, the streets throng with visitors. A five-minute walk away, and you can sit with a coffee on a quiet(ish) square, enjoy 17th-century surrounds, and nod politely at a passing monk. Welcome to Franziskanerplatz.
- Opened up in the early 1600s
- Encircled by historical buildings
- …including a church & monastery
- Home to the iconic Kleines Café
- See also:
Monks and Moses
(View across to the houses 1, 2 and 3)
Back in the day, the area that’s now the small Franziskanerplatz square was far more cluttered. Too cluttered in fact: the numerous carriages bringing the aristocracy to services at the Franciscan church there led to chaos in the narrow streets.
An appeal to the emperor of the time (Ferdinand II) saw the house directly in front of the church removed in the 1620s, thus creating the small square we have today. After all, no emperor wants to hear of aristocratic road rage or noble ladies finding themselves ankle deep in horse manure.
These historical origins explain the L-shaped layout of the square. It takes the form of a street along the front of the Franciscan monastery before opening out into a more conventional square at the church.
The buildings surrounding the square count their age in centuries rather than years, giving a lovely historical flavour to the area.
And the central but secluded location makes Franziskanerplatz an ideal place to spend an hour or two in the company of a fine coffee or something colder from one of several cafés and restaurants in the area.
So what are all those buildings? Here a quick overview…
(The Orellisches Haus at Number 1)
The house opposite the church at number 1 was built in 1698 for a Baron Peter von Orelli; a plaque on the wall indicates that Egon Caesar Corti once lived there. Corti (1886-1953) was an author and historian perhaps best known for his biographies of the nobility and aristocracy.
Numbers 2 and 3
The neighbours at 2 and 3 also have a historical look about them and for good reason. Both are visible, for example, in this excerpt from a longer 1814 oil painting of the square:
(The left-hand part of a painting of the Franziskanerplatz from around 1814 by Franz Scheyerer; Wien Museum Inv.-Nr. 18166; excerpt reproduced under the terms of the CC BY 4.0 license; photo by Birgit and Peter Kainz, Wien Museum)
These buildings form part of a complex surrounding a courtyard and extending back to Singerstraße, where Mozart once lived.
The house at No.2 (the Alter Dompropsthof) predates the square itself; the 1609 building served for many years as the residence of the Bishop of Vienna.
(The Kleines Café)
The house at number 3 is a little younger, having been (re)built just a few years after the square appeared, presumably to expand the width of the street to further ease carriage congestion.
Number 3 also happens to be the address of the Kleines Café, a small (but hugely popular) café and bar with a Hollywood pedigree. The café appeared in Before Sunrise, where the two stars of the movie sat outside and talked with a fortune teller.
(The Franciscan monastery)
Ostensibly house 4 is actually the Franciscan monastery (Franziskanerkloster) and church (Franziskanerkirche). Both are new buildings put up on the site of an older monastic and church complex.
New, of course, is a matter of perspective: the construction work took place in the early 1600s; the sunken circles in its façade give the monastery a distinctive and unique look for Vienna. The church is home to the city’s oldest working organ, completed in 1642.
Quite apart from a history of religious service, the complex also has screen credits to its name. We spotted it several times in Season 2 of Vienna Blood.
Numbers 5 and 6
The house at number 5 is a relative newcomer, dating back to 1797. Part of the building extends over the entrance to Ballgasse, which you can walk down to experience the kind of cityscape that serves as a backdrop for period drama productions.
The neighbour at number 6 is also a youngster, dating back to the 1780s.
(The fountain with the Franciscan church behind)
Finally, no good square is complete without its fountain.
The Mosesbrunnen (Moses fountain) appeared here at the end of the 1700s, though the basin may be older. A highly-regarded sculptor of the time (Johann Martin Fischer) designed the figure of Moses on top. What you see today is apparently a bronze copy from the late 1800s.
The front relief shows the Israelites quenching their thirst. This alludes to the biblical story where Moses strikes a rock to bring forth water in the desert after leading his people out of slavery in Egypt.
How to get to Franziskanerplatz
Emerge from the central Stephansplatz subway station (on the U3 and U1 lines) and you have just a short walk along Singerstraße behind the back of the cathedral. The 1A, 2A and 3A buses that travel around the old town also stop at Stephansplatz.
Address: Franziskanerplatz, 1010 Vienna