The Charles Borromeo Church (aka Dr. Karl Lueger-Gedächtniskirche), Zentralfriedhof, Vienna.
|Size||2.4 square kilometres (590 acres)|
|Number of graves||over 330.000 graves|
|Number of interments||3 million|
Name and location
The cemetery's name is descriptive of its significance as Vienna's biggest cemetery, not of its geographic location, as it is not situated in the city center of the Austrian capital, but on the outskirts, in the outer city district of Simmering, and its address is Simmeringer Hauptstraße 230–244, Vienna 1110, Austria. The musician Wolfgang Ambros honoured the Zentralfriedhof in his 1975 song "Es lebe der Zentralfriedhof" ("Long live the Zentralfriedhof"), marking with it the 100th anniversary of the cemetery's opening.
History and description
Unlike many others, the Vienna Central Cemetery is not one that has evolved slowly with the passing of time. The decision to establish a new, big cemetery for Vienna came in 1863 when it became clear that – due to industrialisation – the city's population would eventually increase to such an extent that the existing communal cemeteries would prove insufficient. City leaders expected that Vienna, then capital of the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, would grow to four million inhabitants by the end of the 20th century, as no one foresaw the Empire's collapse in 1918. The city council therefore assigned an area significantly outside of the city's borders and of such a gigantic dimension, that it would suffice for a long time to come. They decided in 1869 that a flat area in Simmering should be the site of the future Zentralfriedhof. The cemetery was designed in 1870; according to the plans of the Frankfurt landscape architects Karl Jonas Mylius and Alfred Friedrich Bluntschli who were awarded for their project per angusta ad augusta (from dire to sublime).
Opened All Saint's Day 1874, far outside Vienna's city borders. However the consecration of the cemetery was not without controversy: the interdenominational character of the new cemetery – the different faith groups being interred on the same ground – met with fierce resistance, of course, especially in conservative circles of the Roman Catholic Church.
This argument became even more aggressive when the city announced that it did not want an official Catholic opening of the new cemetery – but gave a substantial amount of money toward the construction of a segregated Jewish section. In the end, the groups reached an agreement and the Catholic representatives opened the Zentralfriedhof with a small ceremony, refraining from a large public show. So the new cemetery was inaugurated almost unnoticed in the early morning hours 31 October 1874, by Vienna Mayor Baron Cajetan von Felder and Cardinal Joseph Othmar Rauscher to avoid an escalation of the public controversy.
The official opening of the Central Cemetery occurred the following day. The first burial was that of Jacob Zelzer, followed by 15 others that day. The grave of Jacob Zelzer still exists near the administration building at the cemetery wall.
The cemetery spans 2.5 km2 (620 acres) with 330,000 interments and up to 25 burials daily. It is also second largest cemetery, after the 4 km2 (990 acres) of Hamburg's Ohlsdorf Cemetery, largest in Europe by number of interments and area.
Viennese joke that the Zentralfriedhof 'half the size of Zurich and twice as much fun', (German: „Halb so groß wie Zürich – aber doppelt so lustig ist der Wiener Zentralfriedhof!“) as the cemetery is half as large as the city of Zurich. Zentralfriedhof has a dead population of almost twice the present living residents of Vienna.
The church in the centre of the cemetery is named Karl-Borromäus-Kirche (Charles Borromeo Church), but is also known as Dr. Karl-Lueger-Gedächtniskirche (Karl Lueger Memorial Church) because of the crypt of the former mayor of Vienna below the high altar. This church in Art Nouveau style was built in 1908–1910 by Max Hegele. The crypt of the Austrian Federal Presidents is located near the Dr. Karl-Lueger Memorial Church. Beneath the sarcophagus, is a burial vault with stairs leading down to a circular room whose walls are lined with niches where the deceased in an urn or coffin can be interred.
In its early incarnations, it was so unpopular due to the distance from the city center that the authorities had to think of ways to make it more attractive – hence the development of the Ehrengräber or honorary graves as a kind of tourist attraction.
Vienna is a city of music since time immemorial, and the municipality expressed gratitude to composers by granting them monumental tombs. Interred in the Zentralfriedhof are notables such as Ludwig van Beethoven; Franz Schubert, who were moved to the city in 1888; Johannes Brahms; Antonio Salieri; Johann Strauss II and Arnold Schoenberg. A cenotaph honours Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is buried in nearby St. Marx Cemetery.
The interdenominational character
Although the older of the two, established in 1863, was destroyed by the Nazis during the Kristallnacht, around 60,000 graves remain intact. Cemetery records indicate 79,833 Jewish burials as of 10 July 2011. Prominent burials here include those of the Rothschild family and that of the author Arthur Schnitzler. The second Jewish cemetery was built in 1917 and is still in use today. There were 58,804 Jewish burials in the new section as of 21 November 2007. Officials discovered desecration of 43 Jewish graves in the two Jewish sections 29 June 2012, allegedly as an anti-Semitic act – the stones and slabs were toppled or damaged.
Since 1876, Muslims have been buried at Vienna's Zentralfriedhof. The dead are buried according to Austrian law, in a coffin, in contrast to the Islamic ritual practice; burial in a shroud. The opening of the new Islamic cemetery of the Islamic Faith Community took place 3 October 2008 in Liesing.
The cemetery also contains Russian Orthodox burial grounds (Saint Lazarus chapel, 1894) and plots dedicated for the use of various Orthodox churches. Since 1869, members of the Greek Orthodox community have been buried in Section 30 A, just west of Gate 2, near the arcades. The Romanian Orthodox community is near Gate 3 in Section 38 as are members of the Bulgarian Orthodox churches. The Serbian Orthodox community received portions of Sections 68 B and 69 C, near Gate 3 and Section 27A contains the tombs of the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The Protestant section on the east side is dedicated for the use of both confessions-parts of the Evangelical Protestant church in Austria, the Lutheran A.B (Evangelische Kirche Augsburger Bekenntnis) and Calvinist H.B (Evangelische Kirche Helvetisches Bekenntnis). The cemetery was inaugurated in the presence of the President of the Evangelical Protestant Church, Dr. Rudolf Franz 14 November 1904. The cemetery was expanded in 1926 and 1972 and 1998. The Protestant section consists of 6,000 graves and 300 family vaults.
Europe's first Buddhist cemetery was established in Zentralfriedhof in May 2005. An area of the Zentralfriedhof has been set aside for this purpose centered around a stupa, and was consecrated by a Tibetan monk.
Due to the vast size of the cemetery, private car traffic is allowed on the cemetery grounds every day of the year except November 1/All Saint's Day, although vehicles must pay a toll, currently €2.80. Because of the large number of visitors November 1, private vehicles are not permitted. A public "cemetery bus" line (Route 106) operates on the grounds with several stops to transport visitors.
The old Simmering horse tram was replaced by an electric tram, running from Schwarzenbergplatz to the Zentralfriedhof, in 1901 and it was renumbered as "71" (der 71er) in 1907: it remains the most popular route to the cemetery using public transport. Among the Viennese, a popular euphemism for a death is that the deceased person "has taken the 71" ("Er hat den 71er genommen").
The "Zentralfriedhof" stop on the Vienna S-Bahn (metro suburban railway) is close to the old Jewish part of the cemetery. The closest underground stop is "Simmering" (Vienna U-Bahn, line U3), about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the cemetery.
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And less than 20% of the predominantly Catholic Viennese choose cremation, the rest hoping for a schöne Leiche (beautiful corpse).
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- "Austria: 43 Jewish graves desecrated in Vienna". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. 29 June 2012. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
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- "Österreichische Buddhistische Religionsgesellschaft" [Austria Buddhist Religion Society] (in German). Buddhismus-austria.at. Retrieved 2013-09-07.
- "Anatomie Gruppe 26" [Anatomy group 26] (in German). Friedhoefewien.at. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
- "The Baby Lot at Vienna Central Cemetery". Friedhöfe Wien. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
- "Location shots in Vienna of The Third Man (1949)". University of British Columbia Physics Department. 13 July 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
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