Almost understated by Viennese standards appears the west facade of the Franciscan Church, directly on Franziskanerplatz in the 1st district. The construction of the church, which is part of the adjacent Franciscan monastery, marked the launch of the "monastic offensive", at the beginning of the 17th century, to revive the Catholic faith in Austria and demonstrate its new presence.
The real treasures are inside the church, away from the hustle and bustle of the vibrant metropolis of Vienna. A hatchet is still stuck in the left shoulder of the late Gothic wooden statue of Mary of Grace, "Mary with the Hatchet," dated to 1500. Though it does not immediately catch the eye in the midst of the magnificent ornamentation. According to legend, it bears witness to several unsuccessful attempts to destroy the statue in the course of the Reformation. During renovation work on the mighty high altar, grisaille paintings were rediscovered and uncovered under 12 layers of paint, which are considered the earliest in Vienna and were not thought possible in such splendor.
Under the bed choir is an old brothers' crypt. Wars and looting must have caused an unholy mess of broken coffins, bones, and mummified body parts. In the 1930s, a young monk, Brother Pius, made it his life's work to restore peace and order there. Unfortunately, he was too self-absorbed and unprotected in his work that he died of an infectious disease at the age of only 22. It would take until 1990 for another very young monk, Franciscan Brother Elias Unegg, to make it his task once again to make reparations for the unworthy treatment of the deceased. He sacrificed 8 years of his life for this purpose, until his will was fulfilled and he could celebrate his first mass in the old crypt.
The true treasure of the Franciscan Church, however, a very special sound jewel, is hidden in the bed choir behind the high altar: the "Wöckherl Organ" - the oldest organ in Vienna that can still be played, dating from 1642. After extensive renovation work, which was only completed in 2011, the great pieces now resonate there again in the same timbres as they did almost 400 years ago.
There are weekly special performances during the summer, but the undisputed highlight is undoubtedly the Annual Quintessenz Organ Festival. Johannes Ebenbauer, the organist of the Franciscan Church, organizes this festival in which the organ alone, is the star. The festival spans from old to new pieces, sometimes with unusual instrumentation and new interpretations. Also, a primal element of organ playing, the improvisation, does not come thereby too short and makes thereby this concert highlight to something very special.
Tickets sell out quickly every year and we recommend booking with us in advance.