Lonely Planet review
Vienna’s Gothic masterpiece Stephansdom (St Stephen’s Cathedral), or Steffl (Little Stephan) as it’s locally called, symbolises Vienna like no other building. A church has stood on this site since the 12th century, and today reminders of this are the Romanesque Riesentor (Giant Gate) and Heidentürme. From 1359 Stephansdom began receiving its magnificent Gothic make-over, laying the foundations for today's cathedral.
From the outside of the cathedral, the first thing that will strike you is the glorious tiled roof, with its dazzling row of chevrons on one end and the Austrian eagle on the other; a good perspective of this is from the northeast of Stephansplatz. Inside the cathedral, the magnificent Gothic stone pulpit takes pride of place in the main nave, fashioned in 1515 by an unknown artisan. One often overlooked detail is the pulpit’s handrailing, which has salamanders and toads fighting an eternal battle of good versus evil up and down its length. The baroque high altar, at the very far end of the main nave, shows the stoning of St Stephen. The chancel to its left has the winged Wiener Neustadt altarpiece, dating from 1447; the right chancel has the Renaissance red marble tomb of Friedrich III. Under his guidance the city became a bishopric (and the church a cathedral) in 1469. Note that themain nave is closed during mass, held up to eight times a day.