Otto Wagner Church – jewel of Jugendstil
From the town centre, it takes about 20 minutes by the 48A bus to reach the psychiatric hospital of Vienna. It’s a weird feeling – I wouldn’t normally think of visiting a psychiatric hospital on a beautiful sunny day. But Otto Wagner Church (aka Church am Steinhof or Church of St. Leopold), which is the Roman Catholic oratory of the Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital, is a must see in Vienna.
It’s been really hot over here, which is why we decide to visit the place at sunset. The bus stops right at the hospital entrance and surprisingly, we seem to be the only visitors. The hospital complex is much bigger than I expected but there’s no one around.
To get to the church you have to walk right through the Otto Wagner Hospital (Otto Wagner Spital in German), which consists of 60 pavilions that were designed by Carlo van Boog.
This beautiful art nouveau church was built during the construction of the Steinhof Psychiatric Hospital (now the Otto Wagner Spital), from 1904 to 1907. When it opened, the hospital was Europe’s largest and most modern sanatorium.
The copper-platted gold dome that earned the nickname Limoniberg (Lemon Mountain) from its original golden color is towering over the entire hospital complex and is visible from miles away. In the setting sun, it looks even more majestic.
When drafting his plans for the building, Otto Wagner respected the church’s role as the institutional chapel for mentally ill patients and consulted with doctors and nurses concerning the specific requirements of such a building.
Apart from the church, there is an art nouveau theatre…
… and you can visit the Steinhof Grounds, once part of the grounds of Steinhof hospital and formerly used for agricultural purposes.
It’s hard to believe that Otto Wagner Church caused heavy protests back in 1904 when construction started due to its simplicity. In any case, today it is considered one of the most important Art Nouveau Churches in the world.