The Pestsäule or Plague Column

The Pestsäule (German for "plague column") is located in Graben, a street in the inner city of Vienna and is one of the most well-known and prominent pieces of sculpture in the city.

In 1679, one of the last big plague epidemics occured in Vienna. Fleeing the city, Emperor Leopold I vowed to erect a mercy column if the epidemic would end. In the same year, a provisional wooden column made by Johann Frühwirth was inaugurated, showing the Holy Trinity on a Corinthian column together with nine sculpted angels. In 1683, Matthias Rauchmiller was commissioned to do the marble works, but he died in 1686 and left only a few angel figures. Several new designs followed, among others by Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach, who designed the sculptures at the base of the column. Finally, the project management was assigned to Paul Strudel, who based his work on the concept of theatre engineer Lodovico Burnacini. Below the Trinity figure, Burnacini envisioned a cloud pyramid with angel sculptures as well as the kneeling emperor Leopold, while praying. Among others, the sculptors Tobias Kracker and Johann Bendel contributed to the column. The column was inaugurated in 1693.

In spite of the long construction period, the frequent amendments of the design and the large number of sculptors involved, the monument appears quite homogeneous. During the design period, it changed from a conservative memorial column to a high baroque scene, narrating a story in a theatrical form. The monument thus indicates the transition to the era of High Baroque in Vienna. It highly influenced the style and was imitated in the whole Austrian region1.


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