Art Travel

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths – Jugendstil Art by Otto Wagner in Steinhof

7. August 2019

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Entrance

Vienna is famous not only for its imperial architecture but also its Fin-de-Siècle style called Jugendstil. One of its most important representatives was architect Otto Wagner who designed the psychiatric hospital in Steinhof, at Baumgartner Höhe in Vienna’s Penzing district. Its jewel is Steinhof Church, a masterpiece of Jugendstil art and a definite must for architecture enthusiasts.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Gate

Entrance of the Otto Wagner Spital, the psychiatric hospital

Even though most people only know about the church, the whole area of the psychiatric hospital was built after plans by Jugendstil architect Otto Wagner. Wagner shaped Vienna at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Door

Beautiful Jugendstil details can be found across the whole hospital area. Some pavilions are closed or under construction.

Wagner was heavily involved in urban planning and designed the Stadtbahn – the train which is now part of the metro system (U-Bahn). Its stations are not only tourist attractions but also integrated into the daily life of every Viennese.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Streetlamp

Jugendstil streetlamps reminding of the famous Stadtbahn built by Otto Wagner

Otto Wagner was part of the Secession movement. Founded by artist Gustav Klimt, its mission was to declare war on historicism – the architecture style dominant under the Habsburg Emperor Franz Joseph.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital

Until today, Steinhof is a psychiatric hospital and some of the pavilions are used according to their original purpose. Note the fence around the balcony of the closed psychiatric institution.

The psychiatric hospital is comprised of 60 pavilions. Some of them are still used according to their original function. There are talks that part of the hospital will soon be home to the George Soros University.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Hairdresser and Kiosk

Newspaper kiosk and hairdresser near the main building.

The hospital was designed to offer everything patients needed on site. This involved a newspaper kiosk as well as a hairdresser.

On the way up to the church, visitors pass by the Memorial to the History of Nazi-Medicine. There is also a museum about the atrocities by the National-Socialists at Steinhof. In the Third Reich, a new dimension was added to medicine: the eradication of what was qualified as “inferior human beings”, such as people with physical or psychological handicaps, members of minorities or nonconformists. The Nazis persecuted them, put them in prison or sent them to extermination camps. After Austria’s Anschluss, Steinhof became a centre of the so-called “Tötungsmedizin” (ie. medicine used to kill patients) with mass killings of at least 7,500 patients.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Memorial

Memorial to the History of Nazi-Medicine with its lights representing 772 child victims

Until the 1980s, the mortal remains of the victims had been used for research. Only in 2002 were they buried in a grave of honour at the Zentralfriedhof (one of Vienna’s main cemeteries). In the same year, the memorial in front of the “Jugendstiltheater” by architect Peter Schwager was erected. It is made of 772 which stand for 772 children and adolescents which were killed between 1940 and 1945 in the national-socialist euthanasia centre in Steinhof.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Church View from Park

The golden cupola of Steinhof Church guides visitors up the hill.

The church is situated on top of the hill overlooking Vienna. Its golden cupola can already be seen from afar.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Artist

An artist at the foot of the hill painting the church.

Even over 100 years after its opening, artists still come to Steinhof to be inspired by the church dedicated to Saint Leopold. The church itself was built by Otto Wagner between 1903 and 1907.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Chruch Front

Main entrance of the church

The mosaics, stained glass windows and some further details were made by Koloman Moser, the angel sculptures by Othmar Schimkowitz and two further statues representing Saint Leopold and Saint Severin by Richard Luksch.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Church Holy Water

Otto Wagner paid attention to the details to consider the patients. The holy water was constantly dripping instead of being provided in a bowl.

Probably the most interesting fact (apart from the obvious beautiful architecture) is the attention to details. When Wagner started planning the church, he incorporated its function as part of a psychiatric hospital. This consideration of the patients can be seen immediately after entering the church: the holy water is not in a usual bowl, it drips constantly to avoid infections.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Church Altar Details

The altar of the church

Wagner also avoided sharp edges, the priest’s area can be entirely separated from the patients’, access to the pulpit is limited and there are even emergency exits in case a patient needs to be removed fast. Originally, the seating area also considered the needs or types of patients from calm, restless to disturbed (the latter needing more space).

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Church Window

The two big windows display saints fulfilling Christ’s commandments.

The ceiling depicts the four Evangelists Matthew (man), Mark (lion), Luke (calf) and John (eagle). In addition to the altar, the two big colourful windows are the centres of attention. They show seven saints who fulfil Christ’s commands.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Church Altar

Main altar with mosaic of the ascent of the soul in the back and the four Evangelists depicted on the ceiling

The mosaic behind the main altar stands for the reception of the soul in heaven (the staircase symbolises the soul’s journey).

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Confessional

Confessional inside the church

Several of Wagner’s ideas and designs could never be carried out due to a lack of funds, such as a chapel for Protestant mass or a Jewish synagogue.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Church Side

Outside view of one of the side windows

Opening Times, Tickets and Guided Tours

The hospital area is open every day, but the church itself is only accessible on Saturdays from 16:00 and 17:00 and Sundays from 12:00 to 16:00. On Sundays and public holidays there is a mass at 9.30 am.

Regular tickets for the church are EUR 5 (about USD 5.50). Concessions are available.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Balcony Details

Balcony of the main hospital building

There are guided tours on Saturdays at 15:00 and Sundays at 16:00 which cost EUR 12 (about USD 13). From April until October there is a guided tour covering the whole sanatorium area on Wednesdays from 14:00 to 16:00. Tickets cost EUR 16 (about USD 18). The tours are held in German.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Church Altar Lamp

Jugendstil lamps inside the church

Private guided group tours can be booked via otto-wagner-kirche@wienkav.at

Note: You need to walk uphill to reach the church – part of it is via stairs but there are also some lanes without steps. The church has a side entrance without steps. Inside the church there are no steps.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Church Floor

The church floor

How to Get There

Steinhof is accessible by public transport. If you leave from the city centre, there is a direct bus (number 48A (direction: Wien Baumgartner Höhe) until the station “Otto Wagner Spital”.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Balcony

Another beautiful Jugendstil balcony

Alternatively, take the tram from Schottentor station (number 44 (direction: Wien Maroltingergasse)) and then change to bus number 46B (direction: Wien Wilhelminenberg).

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Fence

The fence is another reminder of Wagner’s architecture in Vienna (the Stadtbahn or the beautiful architecture in the Stadtpark, for example).

By car, it takes about 20 to 30 minutes. There is parking in front of the hospital and there is also a parking lot inside.

Note: Use the address “Baumgartner Höhe 1” when you enter it in Google Maps. There is another town called Steinhof in Austria as well and it may be a bit confusing.

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Clock

Clock at the entrance of the hospital with the main building in the back.

Check out another hidden Jugendstil gem in Brunn am Gebirge near Vienna.

Do You Need More Tips for Vienna?

Vienna Ultimate Guide
My Vienna Top 20 – Things to Do in the World’s Most Liveable City
Vienna Quick Guide (with a video about my quick walking tour for the major sights)
Best Places for Business Meetings in Vienna
Things to Do in Vienna in Autumn

Day Trips from Vienna

Lake Neusiedl – The Adriatic Sea of the Viennese
Laxenburg Castle and Imperial Park
Eisenstadt and Rust
Forchtenstein Castle
Graz – Hidden Gem in the Region of Styria

Vienna Off the Beaten Paths Fin de Siecle Art in Steinhof Balcony with Flowers

Streifen Website

All information as of the date of publishing/updating and based on the information available onsite, the website of the city of Vienna, the press service of the City of Vienna, the website of the Memorial Steinhof and the website of the DÖW (Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance). We cannot accept responsibility for the correctness or completeness of the data, or for ensuring that it is up to date. All recommendations are based on the personal experience of Elisabeth Steiger, no fees were received.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Andrea 7. August 2019 at 7:56

    Will be part of my next trip to Vienna! Thanks Liz! 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼😃

    • Reply Liz 8. August 2019 at 3:39

      Thanks, Andrea, for your comment! I hope we can meet one day in Vienna again 🙂

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