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“A Hidden, Narrow and Understated Exterior BUT a Stunningly-Ornate Interior”

Church of the Jesuits (Universitatskirche)
Ranked #23 of 561 things to do in Vienna
Certificate of Excellence
London, UK
Level Contributor
172 reviews
102 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 399 helpful votes
“A Hidden, Narrow and Understated Exterior BUT a Stunningly-Ornate Interior”
Reviewed 12 January 2013

I visited the Church of the Jesuits (Universitatskirche) as part of my 5 full-day visit to Vienna and enjoyed it very much. It was one of the few churches I had planned to visit in the city and after my time in Vienna my limited selection proved justified, as this was one of the few churches really worth devoting any time to as I don't think that many are that special.


I am compiling an extensive Trip Advisor 'Trip List' for my visit to see the sights of Vienna (and writing TA reviews for all the places I visited, accessed easiest by selecting the 'See * more reviews by LPWilliams for Vienna' link at the base of this review), it is entitled 'Vienna Attractions, Hotel & Transport : 5 Full-Day Visit Sep 2012'. Please feel free to access it via my TA Profile (by clicking my TA 'name' below the photo on the left of this review). I hope it is of interest and use to you and that all of my individual reviews/photos/videos get posted properly; don't forget that videos aren't posted with the review like photos are, so it's best to locate them via my TA profile....


Wedged amongst high-fronted residential properties near a corner of a narrow back street located towards the east end of the historic centre, the church facade is just about the only thing you can see of the building; if you walk to it from the north you would probably miss the church entirely, unless you spotted the understated entrance or the brass nameplate fixed to the wall !

The exterior appearance and decoration is quite understated and belies the treasures inside, being mainly white with 2 tall/slim towers set back slightly - and of course they are quite close to each other due to the narrowness of the church as a whole.

Once inside all that changes....

The interior is ornate in the extreme (I am not using that term in a derogatory way by the way !), with a long, predominantly white-columned nave covered by a largely gold-coloured arched ceiling featuring a number of large fresco-type decorative panels and a quite beautiful intricately-decorated circular cupola.

The altar front area is almost bland in comparison, with just a large white (marble ?) front-piece, before things revert back to the ornate at the rear with pink/white banded columns situated either side of a central (gold ?) structure and a gold-framed wall-mounted fresco.

In contrast, there is an attractive high-mounted pulpit which is largely black-coloured but again adorned with golden decorative features. From my experience and comments I've read in other reviews it would appear that the organ is often being played, which only adds to the charm of your visit to this church.

I will append a video sequence to the attraction webpage and add a few of my own photos to this review once it's been posted.

If you enjoy looking at church interiors then the Church of the Jesuits (Universitatskirche) should be top of your list to visit in Vienna. The diminutive/understated nature of the building exterior gives no real hint that the inside is so superbly decorated; the fact that other Vienna churches that are almost ugly in comparison charge an entrance fee, whereas you can visit this one for free, speaks volumes for what can be a worthwhile visit in the city.

Visited September 2012
2 Thank LPWilliams
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Auburn, Alabama
Level Contributor
21 reviews
10 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 21 helpful votes
“What a happy place!”
Reviewed 3 January 2013

OK, this was timing at it's best. Since we've been here, I've craved the sound of one of those massive pipe organs being played. Today, on accident, we discovered this church and...the organist was practicing! More than that, the place is *amazing*! We were lucky enough to talk with one of the volunteers and learned so much about the church - past and present. We got a tour of the new, modern alter pieces as well as the ancient cabinetry that was built in 1630. It is still in perfect condition and in every day use. We were shown things that almost everyone who came and went while we were there missed...like the wood inlay on every part of every pew, like the mother of pearl inlay on the pulpit, like the trompe l'oeil dome... All of this with pipe organ background music.

However, this is not a stagnant place or staid historical site. It is an active, vibrant church that is fostering the arts like the Catholic churches of old. They have concerts and events. It made me even more proud of my jesuit education. It looks like they have a great parish and a great time.

Visited January 2013
2 Thank NancyHTH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Level Contributor
205 reviews
96 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 221 helpful votes
“Never judge a book by its cover”
Reviewed 11 December 2012

We happened on it by accident. Wandering around the old town, happily getting lost and just soaking in Vienna. We came to this small open space. At first we didn't even notice there was a church, so understated is its exterior. We tossed up whether to enter or keep walking. But we had a couple of hours to kill before we could book into our hotel, so stepped inside.

The difference between the drab exterior and the inside was startling. Beautifully ornate, with gold leaf and pink marble everywhere. Slender unusually fluted columns held up a highly detailed ceiling. Wonderfully carved wooden pews. This was easily the most magnificent church interior we saw anywhere in Vienna. It made St Stevens look very dark and dull indeed.

The place was almost deserted, surprising considering entry is free. But is is tucked away in a corner of Vienna that I guess few tourists come to. As we were leaving though, two walking tour groups were approaching the entrance. So at least the tour operators know of this hidden gem.

The nicest church in Vienna, and we could have so easily missed it completely.

Visited September 2012
1 Thank westendgaz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
253 reviews
115 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 83 helpful votes
“Hidden gem.”
Reviewed 17 November 2012

Just a few blocks from Stephansplatz, but tucked away on a side street, this church is understated from the outside, but stunning when you walk inside. Wonderful trompe d'oeil ceiling that made me a little dizzy! As with most of the churches, there are frequent concerts.

Visited November 2012
1 Thank metaligenics
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London, Canada
Level Contributor
8 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
“A very special Sunday Mass”
Reviewed 15 October 2012

If you have the chance to attend Sunday Mass at 10:30 AM when the choir is here you should go. Not only is the church a visual treat but the music is amazing. We heard Mozart's Sparrow Mass with a large choir and orchestra. If you want to have a seat you should come at least 40 minutes before hand. The Metro stop is Stubentor.

Visited September 2012
3 Thank RonandYvonne
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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