Vienna in The War


Stefansdom’s magnificent tiled roof burned during the Soviet attack on the city in April 1945. In Search of Vienna tells the story this way:

The Russians already held the Inner City, while the Germans had withdrawn to the Danube Canal … In the ensuing battle, St. Stephen’s came directly into their firing line and the roof of the cathedral caught fire.

Whereas an internet source (Google-translated from German) has this account:

1945    April 11-13: … in the last weeks of the Second World War, St. Stephan was not spared from the fury of destruction. Native looters set fire to the located opposite the west front of shops, an unfavorable wind blew the sparks on the roof and put the scaffolded North Tower on fire.

The effects were catastrophic:

Now the disaster took its course: Roof, Pummerin and giant organ were destroyed by fire. A collapsing retaining wall pierced the vault of the south side of the choir, which destroyed the cathedral penetrating fire stalls and choir organ, Kaiser oratory and Lettnerkreuz.

Die Wiener Stephanskirche: das Herz von Wien.”

1945 Stefansdom childrenThanks to Prosimetron for the loan of this. Have not traced the source.

That the Stefansdom survived at all is a “miracle” of community action. Citizens of Vienna laboured for years to save it, with no outside support:

Incredible as it sounds in the first four years, but by the voluntary contributions of the people of Vienna, who had only the essentials themselves, then later by the yield of the Dombaulotterie, a postage stamp series, as well as the known action tiles were applied (Die Wiener Stephanskirche).

The nave of the rebuilt church opened in 1948, the whole church in 1951. By another account, the process of rebuilding went on much longer and involved the whole country:

Reconstruction and restoration went on from 1948 to 1962. It was a communal effort, involving the whole of Austria. The new bell was paid for by Upper Austria, the new floor by Lower Austria, the pews by Vorarlberg, the windows by Tyrol, the candelabra by Carinthia, the communion rail by Burgenland, the tabernacle by Salzburg, the roof by Vienna and the portal by Styria.

 “St Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna” on PlanetWare website.

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