Historic Center of Vienna (2001)

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Vienna developed from early Celtic and Roman settlements into a Medieval and Baroque city, the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It played an essential role as a leading European music centre, from the great age of Viennese Classicism through the early part of the 20th century. 

The historic centre of Vienna is rich in architectural ensembles, including Baroque castles and gardens, as well as the Ringstrasse (late-19th-century) lined with grand buildings, monuments and parks. 

  • Austria 1956. World Cultural Heritage. Map of Vienna with Ringstrasse. 

Austria 1956. World Cultural Heritage. Map of Vienna with Ringstrasse.  

In concurrence with similar regulations laid out in the final accord of the ECSC on September 6, 1983 in Madrid, its member states decided to hold the third concluding meeting of the European Conference for Security and Cooperation in Vienna on November 4, 1986. The historical roots of the ECSC lie in the desire to ease tensions related to Europe's post-WWII demarcation. A variety of initiatives pursued this, yet a breakthrough was only first achieved once conflicts between East and West regarding the German issue were abated through the treaty of 1970/71.

Austria 1986. World Cultural Heritage. Souvenir sheet with map of Vienna, Austria. Obstacles in the path leading to a general European conference including the United States and Canada were removed. 

Parallel to this, NATO and the Warsaw-Pact nations agreed on issues of troops reduction. 

On this productive base all European states (with the exception of Albania) as well as the United States and Canada were finally able to ratify the ECSC's final accord during a 3-phase conference. 

In view of still tense East-West relations and the slowing dynamics of the ECSC's progress, the crucial task of revitalizing the conference and easing tensions stood before the concluding meeting in Vienna. 

An uncountable number of stamps have been issued, depicting Vienna and its many buildings. The best series I have seen is the below set of eight stamps, issued for the second "Vienna International Stamp Exhibition" (Wiener Internationale Postwertzeichen-Austellung or WIPA), that took place in Vienna from July 4 to 13, 1965. During those one and a half weeks, Vienna was the centre of the world of philately and, in addition to the exhibition, hosted numerous specialised conferences. 

The special stamp series dedicated to these events shows a complete panoramic view of Vienna, as if one was visiting the top of a TV-tower. Starting in the west and continuing clockwise, each picture presents a significant part of the city with characteristic buildings. Each stamp motif is a small, but typical painting - a view of the city in miniature. 

Austria 1965. World Cultural Heritage. Stamp # 1 of eight, Vienna, Austria.

The view to the west goes across the roof of the office of the Lower Austrian provincial government in the centre of the foreground and the roof of the Lower Austrian Landhaus at the right bottom of the picture. Those roofs seem to form almost one block due to the narrowness of Regierungsgasse alley. 

The dominance of the Gothic Minorite Church is challenged by the neo-Gothic City Hall that can be seen behind it to the right. Together with the City Hall, the Burgtheater, located in front of it, and the Parliament building, situated behind Volksgarten park at the left margin of the picture, form an essential part of Ringstrasse boulevard. The Wiental skyline can be seen on the horizon.

The view to the north-west shows, in the foreground, the maze of roofs to the right and left of Herrengasse street, up to Freyung square. Schottenkloster monastery and its church dominate the right part of the middle ground. Starting in the centre of the picture, Schottengasse street, in continuation of Herrengasse street, divides the picture into two uneven halves. 

Above Schottentor, which is named after the gate that provided a passage through the former glacis, the Votive Church towers. Out of the buildings along this section of Ringstrasse boulevard, you can only see the university building to the left of Votive Church. In this picture, the city is surrounded by the Hermannskogel, Vogelsang, Kahlenberg and Leopoldsberg mountains. 

Austria 1965. World Cultural Heritage. Stamp # 2 of eight, Vienna, Austria.

Austria 1965. World Cultural Heritage. Stamp # 3 of eight, Vienna, Austria.

The view to the north is quite different, being dominated by buildings from the last 100 years. In the foreground, the street running from the bottom centre diagonally to the right is Tiefer Graben. The big building in the picture's centre is Ringturm Tower, a new landmark of Vienna. 

To the right and left of it, the two anti-aircraft gun towers located in Augarten Park can be seen. The slim spires at the left margin of the picture form part of Brigitta Church in the 20th district of Vienna. In front of it, two of the towers of Rossauer Barracks rise with their romantic merlons. On the horizon, there is Mt. Bisamberg with Magdalenenhof and the radio transmitting station. 

To the north-east, a narrow view is provided by Irisgasse alley to the old Am Hof square. Slim towers from various eras forma charming counterweight to the heavy, horizontal gables of the maze of roofs. 

Two characteristic buildings dominate this section: the slender medieval spire of the Gothic Maria am Gestade Church, which is no less a landmark of Vienna than St. Stephen's Cathedral, and Danube Tower in Donaupark, a modern landmark of Vienna since 1964, which, with its height of 252 m, is almost twice as high as St. Stephen's spire.

Austria 1965. World Cultural Heritage. Stamp # 4 of eight, Vienna, Austria.

Austria 1965. World Cultural Heritage. Stamp # 5 of eight, Vienna, Austria.

The most important view presented in this stamp series is the one to the east. In the foreground, it depicts the entire southern side of Graben street up to St. Stephen's Cathedral, the oldest and most famous landmark of Vienna. Affectionately called "Steffl" by the Viennese, the Cathedral is more intricately linked to the fate of Vienna and Austria than any other architectural monument. 

It has become an outstanding symbol, both in a literal and figurative sense. Between the dome of St. Peter's Church and the top of St. Stephen's spire, the Baroque spires of the University Church and the Dominican Church can be seen, after which there are the two spires of St. Peter's Church, which in turn correspond with the two Heathen Towers of St. Stephen's.

The view to the south-east shows the influence of various centuries, which is characteristic of Vienna's cityscape. The Baroque spires and domes of churches are complemented by the neo-Baroque cupolas of the buildings dating from the Gründerzeit (a period of expansive commercial enterprise during the late 1860s and early 1870s). 

The garden palace of Upper Belvedere and the parks created after the Second Turkish Siege of Vienna dominate the centre of the picture. Behind them, you can see Laa Hill and, left, the Botanical Garden as well as the extensive red-brick Arsenal buildings. The slim spire of the Protestant church in the centre of the foreground is complemented by the high-Baroque spire of St. Anna's Church, the spire of the Salesian nunnery and the tower of the Österreichische Bundesverlag publishing house at the left margin of the picture. 

Austria 1965. World Cultural Heritage. Stamp # 6 of eight, Vienna, Austria.

Austria 1965. World Cultural Heritage. Stamp # 7 of eight, Vienna, Austria.

The view to the south shows the end of Herrengasse street leading into Michaelerplatz square. On the left side of the squareis the so-called "Loos House", a trail-blazing creation by Adolf Loos, a pioneer of modern architecture. 

Michaelerplatz square is dominated by two major buildings, the Michaelertrakt of Hofburg with the powerful cupola towering Michaelertor Gate to the right, and St. Michael's Church with its slim spire that fills the entire vertical line of the picture. Behind it, the slim spire of the Augustine Church rises. Between the top of the two spires, the wide, curved roof of the Vienna State Opera House can be seen, which is the first and most important public building created along Ringstrasse boulevard.

The view to the south-west goes across the impressive, long roofs of the older parts of Hofburg Palace to the Museum of Art History, the Museum of Natural History and Messepalast exhibition centre. This covers the entire area where Gottfried von Semper wanted to establish his enormous "Imperial Forum" in the second half of the 19th century. 

In the centre of the picture, the monument of Empress Maria Theresa is enthroned in the centre of the square. Only a few buildings rise above the façades of the houses of today's 7th district of Vienna, such as the Baroque spire of Stift Church and the anti-aircraft gun towers reminding of World War II. In the background, the peak of Mt. Schneeberg can be seen.

Austria 1965. World Cultural Heritage. Stamp # 8 of eight, Vienna, Austria.

In its justification for inscription the UNESCO states that the urban and architectural qualities of the Historic Centre of Vienna bear outstanding witness to a continuing interchange of values throughout the second millennium.

Further that three key periods of European cultural and political development – the Middle Ages, the Baroque period, and the Gründerzeit – are exceptionally well illustrated by the urban and architectural heritage of the Historic Centre of Vienna.

Finally that since the 16th century Vienna has been universally acknowledged to be the musical capital of Europe. 

United Nations (Vienna) 2003. The Art Historical Museum. United Nations (Vienna) 2003. Belevedere Castle.

Note about the stamp shown at the top of this page. 

Map of Austria 1956.
The rapid development of modern cities and the continually changing requirements of civilisation in the 1950's made it necessary for the international expert community to meet at short intervals to discuss issues of regional policy, land use and urban planning. 

The XXIII International Congress on Housing and Urban Planning took place under the motto "Cities and Their Environs" in Vienna from July 22 to 28, 1956. The background was the development of an increasing gap between rural areas and the urban centres in cultural, economic, sociological and political terms. 

The stamp shows a map and the outlines of Vienna at the intersection of lines running from north to south and east to west. The circle, which symbolises the uniting function of the Congress, connects the outlines of five new European cities that are of significance to urban planning. The location of these five cities around a bigger city corresponds to the idea of coping with big agglomerations by creating subsidiary towns around the capital with its administrative and cultural centres. 

Source: Austrian Collector Service. 

Other World Heritage Sites in Austria (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Austria section, for more information about the individual properties. 

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Revised 18 aug 2007  
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