advertisement

This 14th-century church was built within the Hofburg complex to serve as the parish church for the imperial court. In the latter part of the 18th century, it was stripped of its baroque embellishments and returned to the original Gothic features. Enter the Chapel of St. George, dating from 1337, from the right aisle. The Tomb of Maria Christina, the favorite daughter of Maria Theresa, is housed in the main nave near the rear entrance; but there's no body in it. (The princess was actually buried in the Imperial Crypt, described later in this section.) This richly ornamented empty tomb is one of Canova's masterpieces. A small room in the Loreto Chapel is filled with urns containing the hearts of the imperial Habsburg family. They are visible through a window in an iron door. The Chapel of St. George and the Loreto Chapel are open to the public by prearranged guided tour.

Not everything in the church belongs to the macabre. Maria Theresa married François of Lorraine here in 1736, and the Augustinerkirche was also the site of other royal weddings: Marie Antoinette to Louis XVI of France in 1770, Marie-Louise of Austria to Napoleon in 1810 (by proxy -- he didn't show up), and Franz Joseph to Elisabeth of Bavaria in 1854.

The most convenient and dramatic time to visit the church is on Sunday at 11am, when a high Mass is accompanied by a choir, soloists, and an orchestra.