When the first mason probably started work on the Ruprechtskirche, the Kingdom of England still wouldn’t exist for another 100 years. The oldest church in Vienna makes most of its neighbours look like toddlers.
- Possibly well over 1000 years old
- Romanesque design and still a parish church today
- Noted location in The Third Man
- See also: Vienna churches
St. Rupert’s church
A little patch of the town centre in Vienna goes by the name of the Bermuda Triangle. Bars and restaurants pepper old streets free of traffic, and the area echoes at night to the sound of tinkling wine glasses and good company.
Perhaps surprisingly, that very same area also houses two venerable religious institutions. One is the 1826 city temple of Vienna’s Jewish community. The other is the Romanesque Ruprechtskirche, a church whose roots date back perhaps over a thousand years.
The building stands on a slight rise and on top of one of the few remaining pieces of the old city fortifications that once kept the Ottoman empire at bay (but not Napoleon).
The squat church seems to defy its surrounds, sitting slightly incongruously among houses from the early 1830s. One side looks across to a small arm of the Danube (the so-called Donaukanal), though this was not always the case: WWII bombs apparently destroyed the house that blocked the view. Watch The Third Man and you’ll see the main protagonists (Holly Martins and Anna Schmidt) run past the church and down the steps toward the river just a few years after the war ended.
Quite how old the Ruprechtskirche is remains unclear. We can certainly consider it the oldest standing church in the city, and it still serves an active parish.
Some evidence suggests origins around the turn of the 8th and 9th centuries (!), immediately after the successful conquest of the Pannonian Avars (tribal nomads) by the Christian Franks. The first documented official mention of the Ruprechtskirche is from 1200 (one which, even back then, describes the church as the oldest in the settlement).
Needless to say, the church now combines bits and pieces from throughout the centuries: bells from the 1200s, for example.
Curiously, the church has a strong connection to the salt (German: Salz) trade. St Rupert is the patron saint of Salzburg and the area is where salt from west Austria would land from the river transports.
Nearby streets today hark back to those times (e.g. Salzgries, Salztorgasse). The Salzamt royal salt monopoly building and Ruprechtskirche were neighbours, with the former (and the associated trade) long-time custodians and benefactors of the church.
How to get to the Ruprechtskirche
Like most locations in the centre, Ruprechtskirche is just a short walk from public transport options.
Should you be traipsing along the usual sightseeing routes around Stephansdom cathedral, simply wander northish down Rotenturmstraße to reach the area.
Subway: The Schwedenplatz transport hub, for example, is just a bit further up along the Donaukanal (U1 and U4 subway lines)
Tram: Lines 1 and 2 stop at Schwedenplatz. The 1 also stops at Salztorbrücke, also close by in the other direction along the Donaukanal.
Bus: The old town bus lines stop nearby. For example, take the 3A to Salzgries, the 2A to Schwedenplatz or Rotenturmstraße, or the 1A to Hoher Markt.
(Incidentally, you’re not far from another remarkably old church: the Gothic Maria am Gestade on Salvatorgasse.)
Address: Ruprechtsplatz 1, 1010 Vienna | Website