For history with a capital H, consider the Domschatz treasury of Vienna’s cathedral. You don’t have to be a Christian (or even religious) to appreciate the rarity and importance of the items within.
- Collection of Stephansdom’s ecclesiastical and historical treasures
- Includes numerous Christian relics
- Closed for refurbishment on my last visit
- Not sure when it will reopen
- See also:
Inside the Domschatz
(The Last Supper by Albrecht Dürer. The Domschatz displays fragments of the tablecloth. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
Before renovations started, the treasury covered five or so rooms in the upper echelons of Stephansdom cathedral. A wonderful feature was the exclusive views across the building’s interior down to the main altar and sarcophagus of Frederick III.
The rooms themselves had their own secrets, such as 15th-century graffiti in the relics chamber. Not forgetting the actual treasures, of course…
For once, the word “treasures” might not be quite big enough to describe the items that were on display. Most of the exhibits were the kind you’d imagine being lifted reverentially by daring thieves in some Hollywood blockbuster.
On my visit, I half expected Indiana Jones to come sweeping in to carry off a golden chalice for storage in that famous US government warehouse.
Some items are historical in nature, such as a 15th-century triptych, 17th-century vestments, and even a cannonball from the second Turkish siege of Vienna. I liked the long-handled spoons from 1679, designed (presumably) to allow priests to keep their distance when administering the sacrament during the plague.
Then there are the relics.
You can’t help be impressed by the collection, whatever you might think of the authenticity. It includes, for example, three thorns from the crown of thorns worn by Jesus Christ on the cross, a fragment of the tablecloth from the Last Supper, and the body of St Valentine.
Dozens of incredibly ornate reliquaries display bone fragments and similar from various saints.
Ticket & visitor tips
At the time of writing, the treasury was closed to visitors for renovations. Keep an eye on the cathedral visitor website for any news of its return.
Pre-renovations, a lift took you up to the complex with the rooms linked together by steps (which were often fairly narrow and winding).
If the treasury content sounds like your kind of thing, consider the following alternatives:
- The Dom Museum: just over the road from the cathedral and full of eccleiastical art
- The Schatzkammer: ostensibly the home of the Habsburg crown jewels but also has a large number of Christian relics
- The Schottenstift Museum: the Schottenstift abbey’s own collections, including some rather fine altar panels
How to get to the treasure
That headline sounds like there should be a coastal map with an X marked on it.
Anyway, see the main Stephansdom article for travel information. The lift up to the treasury was a rather inconspicuous cubicle, immediately on your right before you even got completely through the main cathedral entranceway.
Address: Stephansdom, Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna