The Imperial Crypt (Kaisergruft) of the PP Capuchins, or the Capuchin Crypt (Kapuzinergruft)
There are a lot of photos for this, so please be patient and scroll through. And enjoy!
This is below the Kapunziner Church (Kapuzinerkirche), or Capuchin Church, on the side of Neue Markt in the Inner City. It’s a church and monastery run by the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, and is most famous for containing the Imperial Crypt, the final resting place for members of the House of Habsburg. The cost of €5 per adult is well worth it.
You enter to the right of the main church entrance into a hallway with a ticket window, then to the right along a corridor and down stairs to the crypt, which is a series of interleading rooms/spaces, most with vaulted ceilings, then follow another corridor and go up to the exit on the left of the ticket window. So, it’s a sort of circular tour route, which does help with the flow of people.
Since 1633 the Imperial Crypt has been the main place of entombment for members of the House of Habsburg. The bodies of 145 Habsburg royalty and urns containing the hearts or cremated remains of 4 others are here, including 12 emperors and 18 empresses. The newest entombment was in 2011.
Each of the rooms/spaces has a different name and has tombs on either side. They are roughly in chronological order (except for the New Crypt, which seems to have a mix of dates), starting with the Founders Crypt, and moving through Leopold Crypt, Karl Crypt, Maria Theresia Crypt, Franz Crypt, Ferdinand Crypt, Tuscany Crypt, Franz Joseph Crypt, and the Crypt Chapel.
It’s best to buy the pamphlet (only 0.50 euro) that has each tomb numbered and named. It also has a Family Tree of the Houses Habsburg and Habsburg-Lothringen from the founding of the Imperial Vaults. These are the most important branches of the family. We found it very helpful, as our knowledge of Habsburg history was rather sketchy and we didnt know the significance of many of the people. It’s an unusual way to see the wealth and extent of the Habsburg Empire, and gave us a new way of trying to figure out who all the royal members of the Habsburgs were. The Habsburgs were a powerhouse for about 500 years (most say from 1440-1918) and affected almost all parts of Europe in one way or another (we learned a bit more about that in the Royal apartments tour, which I’ll cover later).
It’s a fascinating place—although rather dark, both literally and figuratively—with so many metal sarcophagae and coffins crowded into a fairly small space. Some are flat on the ground, many others raised on feet or some sort, like lions. The first impression is of how many there are, ranging from small, to medium, to huge. The tiny ones for children look very sad and forlorn. The next impression is how ornate so many are. They are decorated with lions, skulls, curlicues, crosses, shields, angels, crests, eagles, or faces—all known as exhuberant roccoco. Some look a little musty, some have fresh flowers. Others are totally plain.
The biggest is for Maria Theresa (1717-1780) and her husband, Franz Stephan (1708-1765), who occupy the place of honor in the lighter domed vault, where there are 2 statues of them atop a giant, hugely decorated “bed”. Maria Theresa was able to be crowned Empress, with her husband, due to the Pragmatic Sanction and was mother of 16 children. She was generally well-esteemed and often called the “Mother of Europe”. Franz Stephan was Emperor, Grandduke of Tuscany and son of Duke Leopold of Lorraine.
When reading some of these titles, we began to get an idea of how the Habsburg network worked. A lot of the network was established through marriages to royalty in other countries and areas.
There are three sarcophagae in the Franz Joseph Crypt, the last one before the Crypt Chapel and the exit. Franz Joseph 1 (1830-1916) ascended to the throne in 1848 and governed the state from absolutism to early democracy. He must still be loved/revered, as his coffin is prominent and has flowers, small wreathes, and ribbons on and in front of it. On one side is his wife Elisabeth (1837-1898), who was murdered in Geneva. One the other side is their son, Rudolph (1858-1889), who died tragically in Mayerling.
We also noted a special plaque, a memorial to Franz Ferdinand and Sophie, who were assassinated in Sarajevo, the event that triggered WW1. We were in Sarajevo a few days earlier and went to the museum that commemorates this event.
Another notable one is for Zita (1892-1989), the last empress, brought back from exile on her death. Hers is a newer coffin in the Crypt Chapel. She was the wife of Emperor Karl 1 (1887-1922), the last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. There is a memorial bust of him in the Crypt, but he is actually buried in Funchal on the island of Madeira. Next to Zita is Carl Ludwig (1918-2007), their son. In the corner, by the altar, is Otto (1912-2011), also their son, who was Crown Prince.
Plan to spend at least an hour here. You can’t do Vienna without seeing this crypt—it tells a big part of the story or Vienna and the Habsburgs who dominated the city and area for so long.