Located opposite the entrance to the Imperial Hofburg Palace, Michaelerkirche was consecrated in 1217. Although fragments of the present incarnation date back to the mid-14th century, most of it was rebuilt in 1792 in fine Baroque style, but it is still topped with its spindly Gothic spire.
Thanks to its position at the very heart of Imperial Vienna, Michaelerkirche became the parish church of the Imperial Family and by default the place of worship favored by Vienna’s aristocracy. It was in this church where Hayden played, and where Mozart’s unfinished Last Requiem was performed on the magnificent Sieber Organ after his death in 1791.
Toady Michaelerkirche is known for both its Baroque ornamentation and its music recitals but is chiefly notorious for the grisly secrets in its crypt. In the early 17th century, the graveyard surrounding the church filled up with tombs and was closed down. From 1631 until 1784, more than 4,000 of the good burghers of Vienna were entombed in the crypt’s catacombs, and thanks to a quirk of climatic conditions down there, many of their mummified bodies and decorative coffins – skillfully carved with wreathes, flowers and death masks – have been perfectly preserved.
The caskets stand in ranks throughout the crypt; several are open to view, revealing parchment-like skin stretched taught across grinning skulls, tufts of wig and glimpses of fancy period waistcoats etched with lace.