St. Stephen’s Cathedral, “Stephansdom” or “Steffl” for short, is the landmark of Vienna and is located at Stefansplatz Square in the first district. St. Stephen’s Cathedral has been the seat of a cathedral chapter since 1365, a cathedral with a bishop’s see since 1479 and the Metropolitan church of the Archbishop of Vienna since 1723.
The huge building is 107 metres long, 34 metres wide and is one of the most important Gothic buildings in Austria, although parts of the previous late Romanesque building from 1263 have been incorporated into the western facade. St. Stephen’s Cathedral boasts four towers, the south tower being the tallest at 136.40 metres. In the former Austrian monarchy, there was a decree that no tower was permitted to be taller than the south tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. The south tower also houses 13 church bells, including the famous “Pummerin,” the second largest free-swinging church bell in Europe that is still rung.
The enormous roof of the cathedral is decorated by 230,000 Moravian roof tiles in ten colours, which depict, among other things, the imperial double-headed eagle, the coat of arms of the City of Vienna and, since 1950, the coat of arms of the Republic of Austria.
For 421 years, the cathedral also housed a fire watch: a watchman sat in a watchman’s lookout 72 metres above the ground and warned the inhabitants in case of fire by means of a red flag and a metal speaking trumpet. The last watchman performed his duties until 31 December 1955, but by this time he communicated directly with the main fire station via a pointer telegraph.