Experiencing the Peterskirche is like opening a psychedelic Easter egg.
It looks nice on the outside, with its domes, reliefs and statues. Then, when you go inside, you’re hit by a dizzying wave of colour and form that is really quite breathtaking.
- Early 18th-century church with a gorgeously baroque interior
- Also a venue for concerts and recitals (many free)
- See also: How to see a concert | Other churches
The church of St. Peter
This Opus Dei-run Baroque church nestles quietly in the centre of Petersplatz square, just off the busy Graben pedestrian area and surrounded by buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries. All of which makes for good photos.
Don’t expect a huge cathedral-like church: it’s essentially an entrance foyer, the oval-shaped domed area with niches (mini chapels) and the high altar area. But the Peterskirche packs an awful lot of Baroque magnificence into a small space.
Everywhere you look inside there’s a kaleidoscope of ornamental design. If you can, close your eyes when you enter the foyer and get a friend or family member to guide you through the door to the main dome.
Then open your eyes.
Save the surprise for your visit or get a preview through the church’s own virtual tour.
There’s a free and formal guide to the church’s interior at the entrance, but here are a few highlights:
- As you face the main altar, don’t forget to look up and behind you to see the Baroque organ built in 1751. Though the word organ is not big enough to properly describe the instrument.
Tip: there are frequent (free) organ recitals and choir performances at the church, with for-fee events in the underground vaults.
- Check the pulpit, which is a little bit more decorated than your average wooden stand.
- Try and view the church on a sunny day. The central dome has a small windowed tower at its centre, with a dove as the representation of the Holy Spirit/Trinity at the very top. When sunlight enters this tower, it creates the effect of light shining out from the symbol.
- Look out for the paintings that create the impression of a bigger structure, such as the artificial dome painted above the entrance to the main altar area.
- Also look for the large portraits around the bottom of the dome – see how the painted projections over the stonework give them a 3D feel.
Tip: the Peterskirche usually hosts a display of nativity scenes for three weeks during the pre-Christmas period and a smaller display (with Easter scenes) around Easter.
The historical records are incomplete but suggest the first church on this site appeared in the late 4th century. A time when Attila the Hun was still decades away from tweaking the noses of Kings and Emperors across Europe.
A Romanesque church, built somewhere between the 8th and 11th century (depending on who you believe), certainly preceded the current one.
Today’s church went up in the early 18th century. Dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the design mimics its famous namesake in Rome (as you can tell from a glance at the main dome). The official consecration took place in 1733.
Tickets & visitor tips
At the time of writing, St. Peter’s Church is free to visit and open daily. It’s a working church (priests were receiving confessions during my visit), so be aware of that in terms of your clothing and behaviour of course.
How to get to Peterskirche
As it’s just off the main pedestrianised centre of Vienna, you’ll likely pass the Peterskirche on your sightseeing travels. The church is not far from the main cathedral, which makes an interesting architectural contrast: Stephansdom has its own bits of baroque finery but is largely gothic in design.
Public transport suggestions:
Subway: Take the U1/U3 to Stephansplatz and walk up the Graben.
Bus: Take lines 1A or 2A to Graben/Petersplatz.
Address: Petersplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website