Not every beautiful square has to be in Vienna’s old town. Jodok-Fink-Platz, for example, sits in gorgeous Baroque surrounds in one of Vienna’s finer districts just outside the centre.
The square’s historical highlight comes in the form of the Maria Treu parish church, known to most as the Piaristenkirche.
- Wonderful Baroque front and insides dating back to the early 18th century
- Both Haydn and Bruckner performed here
- See also:
Maria Treu parish church
Vienna’s well-to-do eighth district is famous for its traditional Viennese restaurants and the renowned Theater in der Josefstadt, which first opened in 1788 and still delights theatergoers today.
A short walk from the theatre takes you to Jodok-Fink-Platz. The buildings surrounding the three closed sides of this small square all belong to the Piarist religious order, though most now serve more secular purposes.
If you look at the square from the road, the building to the right houses the Piaristengymnasium (a state-run secondary school). A private Piarist-run primary school occupies the building on the left.
And between the schools lies the parish church of Maria Treu (the Piaristenkirche), a location steeped in history.
Construction of the church began in 1716, but it would take a few decades to complete: the consecration only took place in 1771.
Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt was behind most of the design. This connection places the Piaristenkirche in lofty architectural circles, since Hildebrandt also built such Viennese landmarks as the Upper and Lower Belvedere palaces.
(View across the square to the school)
Another famous name appears when discussing the church’s interior: the great artist of the late Baroque period, Franz Anton Maulbertsch, painted the frescoes on the ceilings of the five domes.
As a purpose-built Baroque church, everything inside seems to fit perfectly. The result is a light and airy impression with enough space to let the glorious architecture and decor breathe. If you go in, be sure to note the two side windows with their sculptures and gold scrollwork.
The Piaristenkirche’s place in Viennese lore stems from its unique front and its musical connections.
The twin spires and clock wall are relatively unusual for the city, and the rather beautiful façade lives up to its name in more ways than one. Facing the entrance, head to the right and the bicycle stand. Look up and you’ll see that the roof begins much lower down than the front would suggest.
The contrast becomes even clearer if you go around to view the rear of the church on Lederergasse:
This difference between a representational façade and a more pragmatic and economical rear to a building is not rare in Vienna, but the less pretty parts of most locations normally remain hidden from view.
The composer connections
Many churches in Vienna have a particular connection to a famous composer or three. In the case of the Piaristenkirche, it’s Haydn and Bruckner.
Haydn’s Missa in tempore belli (Mass in Time of War) premiered in the church on December 26th, 1796. He led the performance himself and apparently wrote the work specifically for the occasion: the first mass officiated by Joseph Hoffmann, a young priest.
Haydn also performed his Stabat Mater piece (for singers, choir and selected instruments) in the Piaristenkirche on March 29th, 1771. Some believe the occasion played a key role in establishing Haydn’s name in Vienna.
A plaque outside the church commemorates the Anton Bruckner connection. Here’s my translation:
Anton Bruckner took the practical part of his music composition exam on the organ in this church on November 21st, 1861. The later court music director, Johann Herbeck, summarised the outcome with these memorable words: “he should have been examining us”
Bruckner played the Piaristenkirche organ on other occasions, too.
On April 18th, 1871, for example, he auditioned (successfully) in the church for the position of Austrian envoy to an industrial exhibition in London, where the winner would perform various concerts.
Bruckner played a work by Bach before performing freely to a theme given to him and two other competing organists after all had finished their rehearsed pieces.
The next day, the Neues Wiener Tagblatt correctly predicted the outcome of the audition, noting that Bruckner’s ad hoc performance was (my translation):
…decidedly superior to his competitors
How to get to the Piaristenkirche
The nearest subway station is probably Rathaus on the U2 line. To avoid the walk, jump on tram 2 from the Rathaus (in the direction of Dornbach) and get off at the next stop (Lederergasse).
The 13A bus also stops nearby (get out at Lederergasse or Theater in der Josefstadt, depending on which direction you come from on the bus).
Walk a little bit south from the church to reach Josefstädter Straße: look down the street toward the city centre and you get an unexpected view of the Stephansdom cathedral spire.
Address: Jodok-Fink-Platz, 1080 Vienna