Posted by: kimberlysullivan | March 15, 2016

Vienna’s plague column

Vienna's plague column, AustriaI’ve already written about Plague art in Vienna in an earlier post, concentrating on the impressive Plague column and the monumental Karlskirche.

Both of these monuments were erected to commemorate Vienna’s emergence from tragic outbreaks of the Plague, and both are well-known landmarks of modern-day Vienna.

The Plague, otherwise known as Bubonic Plague or ‘Black Death’ devastated Europe between the 14th and early 18th centuries. Estimates place the number of dead during that period to anywhere between a third to over half of Europe’s population.

Vienna's plague column, AustriaVienna’s Plague Column, on Am Graben and very close to the central St Stefan’s cathedral, was built at the end of the 1679 plague. Emperor Leopold I vowed to construct one if Vienna were delivered from the plague. he commissioned a young architect, Johann Bernhard Fisher von Erlach to create the column.

An impressive scene carved onto the column is an old hag – symbolizing the Plague – being destroyed by an angel while Emperor Leopold looks on.

I’ve admired this column many times, and have many times met up with friends at this meeting spot when I lived for a short time in Vienna, but it was only on my last visit this past summer that I really studied the details.

Vienna's plague column, AustriaMy children were studying the plague in their history class and we decided to carefully observe the depiction – and it truly is terrifying. Take a look at the close-up of the old hag/The Bubonic Plague as it is being forced to lose its hold over Vienna (image at right).

Unfortunately, then jubilation was short-lived. The plague would return to Vienna and an elderly Johann Bernhard Fisher von Erlach would be called upon to build the monument announcing deliverance from that plague – Vienna’s monumental Karlskirche.

Vienna's plague column, AustriaSo when you’re passing Am Graben, one of Vienna’s bustling shopping streets, be sure to take time to study the personification of the terrifying plague that claimed so many lives in Vienna almost 400 years earlier.

To see my other tips on what to do in Austria’s capital, see here. I always love returning to this elegant city.





  1. great post.

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