Experiencing the Peterskirche is like opening a rather surprising Easter egg. It looks nice on the outside, with its domes, reliefs and statues. Then the inside quite takes your breath away.
- Early 18th-century church
- Gorgeous Baroque interior
- Popular for classical Viennese concerts
- Read my concert review
- Just off Vienna’s pedestrianised centre
- Book a classical concert* in the Peterskirche
- See also:
St. Peter’s Church
(Welcome to some Baroque magnificence)
The church nestles quietly in the centre of Petersplatz square, close to the busy Graben pedestrian area at Vienna’s heart and surrounded by buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries.
Both church and square make for good photos; look for a passing fiaker (one of Vienna’s horse-drawn carriages) to add another historical touch to your snapshots.
The Peterskirche packs an awful lot of Baroque magnificence into its oval-shaped domed area with its niches (mini chapels) and high altar.
Everywhere you look inside offers 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.
The entrance area normally has a free and formal guide to the church’s interior, but here are just a few highlights:
- As you face the main altar, 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.
- Check the pulpit, which has a little bit more decoration than your average wooden stand.
- Try and view the church on a sunny day. A small windowed tower at the centre of the dome has 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.
(The iconic dome)
- Look out for the illusionist 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: observe how the painted projections over the stonework give them a 3D feel.
The historical records are incomplete but suggest the first church on this site appeared in the late 4th century. It would be decades before Attila the Hun began 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.
(View of Peterskirche and square by the artist Carl Schütz, published by Artaria & Co. Verlag in 1779; Wien Museum Inv.-Nr. 18987; excerpt reproduced with permission under the terms of the CC0 licence)
Today’s church went up in the early 18th century.
Dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the design mimics the famous namesake in Rome (as you can tell from a glance at the main dome); the official consecration took place in 1733.
Concerts, visitor & ticket tips
Peterskirche also hosts organ recitals, choir performances, operas and other events, either in the main church or in the underground vaults.
Many of these require their own ticket to attend, particularly the highly-rated classical music concert* given regularly in the evenings by the Classic Ensemble Vienna, which I loved. The concert typically features popular pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, and similar:
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
(Nothing on your dates? Try some alternative concerts*)
At the time of writing, the church itself is free to visit and open daily. It’s a working institution (priests received 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 any walk through the old town.
The church lies close to the main cathedral, which makes an interesting architectural contrast: Stephansdom has its own bits of Baroque finery but remains largely Gothic in design.
For more Baroque ecclesiastical art and décor, visit some of the other central churches, particularly the Annakirche (also in the pedestrianised centre) and Schottenkirche (on the nearby Freyung square).
Public transport suggestions:
Subway: take the U1/U3 to Stephansplatz and walk up along the Graben and turn right just after the plague column.
Bus: take lines 1A or 2A to Graben/Petersplatz.
Address: Petersplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website (for the church)