Some of the highest quality sacred music you are likely to hear is free, if you can be at one particular place and time in Vienna: at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning at the Augustinerkirche. This service is usually packed to the rafters, as it’s music has a stellar reputation throughout Europe. Come at least an hour before the Mass begins, if you want a seat.
The church itself, part of the Hapsburg complex, is smaller and more modest than others in Vienna. Completed in 1339, the church was originally Gothic, acquiring Baroque features through the ages and then restored to Gothic in the 18th century. As the royal chapel, it is more intimate and therefore more conducive to prayer and/or reflection than many other churches in the city.
Since it’s architecture is less spectacular than some of the other churches, you’ll probably visit it for its present day music. The church also has two organs — one a 24-stop Reil (Dutch) Brothers organ, for those organ buffs. While you’re there, you might muse about a little of its history. It is s known as the setting for several important marriages: the wedding of Archduchess (and future Empress) Maria Theresa in 1736 to Duke Francis of Lorraine, the wedding of Archduchess Marie Louise in 1810 to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France (in absentia, he didn’t show up.). It is also, in a testament to the oddness of the Hapsburgs, the setting for all of the hearts of the Hapsburgs. (not the bodies, just the hearts. Yes, that is weird, even for the Hapsburgs.) preserved in 54 silver urns in the Heart Crypt Memorial Chapel . Artistically, along with the magnificent original Gothic vaulting, the memorial monument (pictured left) , sculpted by Antonio Canova of Maria Christina (favorite daughter of Empress Maria Theresinia) is the most notable in the church.
The reviews on the internet confirm that this is the spot for excellent sacred music:
- “As it was hard to find affordable seats for classical musical stages, we were advised to go to the Sunday morning mass : for those who do not especially like to pray (like me), the music was crazy good.”
- “I remember standing here, for nearly 2 hours in a totally packed church during a Sunday mass when last in Vienna (Mozart’s “Coronation” Mass performed)…a beautiful space and experience.”
- …the Augustinerkirche. It is quite well-known for putting on a full orchestral mass every Sunday. That’s right–orchestra, chorus, vocal soloists–every Sunday. Since I’m working on both Hummel’s and Haydn’s trumpet concertos, as well as doing research on Haydn and enlightened absolutism as part of my travel grant here, I knew this was a must-see. I enjoyed hearing the mass in the context of an actual mass.” from “My Semester in Vienna“