If you really want to experience history with a capital H, then drop into the Domschatz (St Stephen’s Cathedral Treasury).
You don’t have to be a Christian (or even religious) to appreciate the rarity and importance of the items within.
NB: The treasury was closed for refurbishment on my last visit. Not sure when it will reopen.
- Collection of Stephansdom’s ecclesiastical and historical treasures
- Includes numerous Christian relics, such as:
- Thorns from Christ’s crown
- The body of St Valentine
- Also available as part of the all-inclusive cathedral pass
- See also: Stephansdom overview | Dom Museum
Inside the Domschatz
(The Last Supper by Albrecht Dürer. The Domschatz has fragments of the tablecloth. Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)
The five or so treasury rooms are in the upper echelons of Stephansdom cathedral, so a wonderful feature is the exclusive views you get across the building’s interior down to the main altar and sarcophagus of Frederick III.
The rooms themselves have their own secrets, such as the 15th-century graffiti in the relics chamber. And then there are the actual treasures, of course…
For once, the word “treasures” might not be quite big enough to describe the items on display. Most of the exhibits are the kind you’d imagine being lifted reverentially by grave robbers or pirates in some Hollywood blockbuster.
I half expected Indiana Jones to come sweeping in to carry off a golden chalice for storage in that famous US government warehouse.
Some treasures 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 the saints. The free guide leaflet (available in English) gives interesting details on selected items and rooms, but there is no information or even meaningful labels for the vast majority of relics. Unfortunately, much is left to your imagination.
Ticket & visitor tips
The Stephansdom treasury cost €6 for an adult ticket when I went in. The Stephansdom all-inclusive ticket normally also covers entry.
Be warned that while there is a lift up to the treasury, the rooms are linked together by steps, which are often fairly narrow and winding. (You can’t easily build lifts and modern staircases into gothic cathedrals.)
Oh, and if the treasury sounds like your kind of thing, then you should consider the following:
- 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 is a rather inconspicuous cubicle, immediately on your right before you even get completely through the main cathedral entranceway.
Wait (or ring the bell) if nobody is there. The attendant might be delivering people up to the top.
Address: Stephansdom, Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website