St. Charles’s Church in Vienna looks like a mosque…

After the end of the last great plague in Vienna in 1713, Emperor Charles VI decided to erect a church in honor of his namesake patron saint, Saint Charles Borremeo, the patron saint of plague victims.

Johann Fischer von Erlach, deeply impressed by the architecture of Greek-Eastern Roman Constantinople and Islamic Istanbul, included all the elements of a Turkish mosque in his design of St. Charles’s Church.

He accentuated the Byzantine dome with the two columns. His role model was the great architect of the Ottoman Empire, Koca Mimar Sinan (known in the West as the “Ottoman Michelangelo”), who had created the pin-like minaret columns of the Hagia Sophia.

Koca Mimar Sinan, curiously enough, was originally from the same Austrian state Styria as Johann Fischer von Erlach.

Was it not contradictory to the strict Catholic world view of the Habsburg who commissioned the church to adorn the sacred building with oriental elements? – Not at all. Already before Emperor Charles VI came to Vienna in 1711 to take over the imperial throne of the Holy Roman Empire, he had seen Moorish elements homogeneously being incorporated into worldly, as well as sacred architecture in Spain after the Reconquista.

Mosque to Church