Never take things at face value. The façade of the Kirche am Hof beams with 17th century baroque elegance, but the church actually dates back hundreds of years.
- Likely built toward the end of the 14th century
- Located on the site of the first ducal court
- Three popes made public appearances here
- Now also home to the Croatian Catholic Mission
- See also:
(The front view and balcony)
So you’re enjoying a glass of port in your 300-year-old town palais on Am Hof square, feeling pretty proud of your historical building.
Then you look out the window to the Kirche am Hof and realise you’re a modern abomination in the eyes of this medieval church.
This Gothic creation seems remarkably ungothic at first glance, however. A casual perusal of the front reveals a striking Baroque façade. But a rich history lies behind (literally) the statuary and stone balustrade.
The exact dates when the first church proper appeared at this site remain unclear, but the construction probably began in the late 14th century under the auspices of the Carmelite religious order.
(The church pictured in the late 1700s; photo courtesy of the Rijksmuseum)
The location goes back even further, having once been the palace of the Duke of Austria from the middle of the 12th century and then the mint when the court moved to the Hofburg. This was before the days of Austrian or Habsburg empires.
Like many early churches, the ravages of time led to major renovation and reconstruction work that transformed the look and décor; in the case of the Kirche am Hof, most notably in the 17th century during the time that the Jesuits ran the place.
The baroque treatment is best seen in that huge façade with its various statues, completed around 1662.
(Several popes once stared out across the square from here)
The façade’s built-in terrace proved a useful venue for public pronouncements and appearances.
Pope Pius VI gave an Easter blessing here during his unsuccessful 1782 attempt to persuade Emperor Josef II to be a little less tolerant in his treatment of other religions (Josef was a remarkably progressive monarch for the times).
Popes John Paul II (1983) and Benedict XVI (2007) also appeared on the platform.
While now part of the Archdiocese of Vienna, the Kirche am Hof’s main function today is as a home for the Croatian Catholic Mission. The formal name is the Church of the Nine Choirs of Angels.
The building sometimes serves as a film location, too. For example, it recently stood in for a synagogue in the second season of Vienna Blood (the Darkness Rising episode of this period detective series).
How to get to the church
Just follow the tips for the Am Hof square and look for the huge, ahem, church-like building that looms large over the area.
Expect to find a whole heap of history nearby. For example, just a couple of doors up is the house where Mozart gave his first public performance in Vienna. And a couple of doors to the other side is the former site of the papal embassy to Vienna.
Address: Am Hof 1, 1010 Vienna