Tourist attractions in Vienna : Central Cemetery

Vienna Central Cemetery (German: Zentralfriedhof) is the second largest cemetery by area (after Hamburg's Ohlsdorf Cemetery) and largest by number of interred in Europe. It contains around 330,000 graves; among them are about 1000 honorary graves. Over 3 million people of all religious denominations have been buried here so far on a total area of around 2.5 million square meters. Unlike its name, the Central Cemetery is not located in the city center, but on the outskirts, in the district of Simmering, 11th municipal district of Vienna.

The Vienna Central Cemetery unlike most cemeteries has not evolved gradually with the passing of time. The decision to establish a new cemetery was made, because it was clear that, the population would grow too fast due to industrialization, and the existing grave sites would soon become insufficient. The city council decided to assign a vast flat area in Simmering as the site of the new cemetery. A call for tenders therefore was issued in 1870 to plan Vienna Central Cemetery, which was won by the landscape architects Karl Jonas Mylius and Alfred Friedrich Bluntschli. After about three years of construction, The Zentralfriedhof was opened officially on “All Saints' Day” on 1 November of 1874. The first individual funeral to take place was for Jakob Zelzer. The grave still exists today (in lot 0, row 0, number 1) and is next to the administrative buildings at the cemetery wall.

The cemetery has been enlarged a total of seven times, most recently in 1921. Like most other historic sites in Vienna, this Cemetery also suffered severe damages during the World Wars.  Around 12,000 graves and hundreds of crypts were completely destroyed and the dome of the cemetery Church collapsed by an incendiary bomb.

Today, with more than 20 funerals every day, Vienna Central Cemetery has become the most important burial site in the city. A remarkable fact about this burial ground is its interdenominational character, which means it is open to all religious denominations. Due to this fact, the area is divided into several segments. In addition to the Catholic section, there are Protestant cemetery, Jewish cemetery, Islamic cemetery, and even Buddhist cemetery as well as many other subdivisions. A new Anatomy Memorial was opened in group 26, in 2009, which belongs to the Institute of Anatomy of the University of Vienna and is dedicated to people who donated their bodies to science.

Die Alten Arkaden:
About 100 meters from the main entrance (Gate 2) after morgues 1 and 2, the path to the cemetery church is flanked by two semicircular covered footpaths in neo-Renaissance style which are called "Die Alten Arkaden" (the old arcades) and consist of 36 richly decorated crypts. The construction of these brick buildings was completed in 1880. The crypts belong to the wealthy families of that period of time and are adorned with numerous reliefs and impressive sculptures. The paintwork and gilding by Georg Glaser date back to 1883.

Cemetery Church of St. Charles Borromeo:
The Cemetery Church of St. Charles Borromeo (German: Karl Borromäus Kirche) is the most significant Art-Nouveau style church in Vienna, together with Church of St. Leopold (Kirche am Steinhof), and is located at the centre of the cemetery. It is also known as the ‘Lueger Gedächtniskirche ‘or ‘Karl Lueger Memorial Church’ because the crypt of the former mayor of Vienna located directly beneath the high altar. The church was designed by Max Hegele, and after three years of construction work, was inaugurated in 1911.

The church covers a total area of 2,231 square meters and is flanked by four corner towers. The back two serve as clock and bell towers. The clocks have letters instead of numbers, which create the phrase ‘tempus fugit' (time flies). The twelfth hour is marked by a small cross. The central dome reaches the height of 39 meters. The covered footpaths and columbaria (crypts) are located on either side of the cemetery church in form of two semicircles. In addition to the 70 covered crypts and two mausoleums, each with eight crypts, there are 768 columbaria niches.  A columbarium (Pl: columbaria) is a niche in the wall for the storage of coffin or urns holding a deceased’s cremated remains. Occupied niches are closed off with a concrete slab and are given a marble plaque with an inscription.

The church interior was designed by a number of renowned Art Nouveau artists. The atrium is decorated with two reliefs by Georg Leisek and Hans Rathausky. Leopold Forstner was responsible for the impressive, colorful windows and mosaics. Anton Kaan, Franz Klug, Karl Philipp and Adolf Pohl created the valuable marble works of art seen on the high altar. The portrayal of the Last Judgment above the high altar was designed by Hans Zatzka.

* The crypt of the Austrian Federal Presidents (German: Präsidentengruft) since 1945, is located directly in front of the church. The burial site for priests from the Archdiocese of Vienna is situated behind the church. *

Ehrengräber or Honorary Graves:
In the first years after its opening, Vienna Central Cemetery was not very popular due to its distance from the city center. For making it more attractive for people, authorities decided to dedicate specific areas to the people who were renowned in music, poetry, architecture, painting , science etc.. Therefore, many famous and deserving people who were interred before in other cemeteries in Vienna were transferred here. However, with the construction of the honorary grave area (German: Ehrengräber), the cemetery soon turned into an attractive destination for visitors. Among around 1,000 honorary graves which can be found today in this cemetery as an integral part of Vienna's cultural history, are notables such as Beethoven and Schubert who were moved here in 1888, and Johannes Brahms,Johann Strauss II and Arnold Schönberg and many other famous people. 

*There is a cenotaph erected in honor of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but he is actually buried in St. Marx Cemetery in the Landstraße district of Vienna.*

Finally, a large size Zentralfriedhof plan may also be useful (Hold down the Ctrl key while clicking on the plan , to see the high quality image in a new tab)

Gate 2 (Main entrance):  Simmeringer Hauptstraße 234 , 1110 Vienna
U-Bahn Simmering + Straßenbahn 71 (Kaiserebersdorf)
*You may drive into the cemetery with your car at a cost of EUR 2.20 (except on 1 November when no traffic is permitted).
The dedicated bus line for the cemetery (number 11) runs every half an hour from 9 am to 3:30 pm, and also at 4 pm and 4:30 pm on Saturdays.*
Entry to the Cemetery is free, but it is possible to rent an audio guide, by providing a valid photo ID and paying a rental fee of EUR 7.00 to the porter at Gate 2.

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