The Rektoratskirche St. Karl Borromäus, commonly called the Karlskirche (German for 'St. Charles Church'), is a Baroque church located on the south side of Karlsplatz in Vienna, Austria. Widely considered the most outstanding baroque church in Vienna, as well as one of the city's greatest buildings, the church is dedicated to Saint Charles Borromeo, one of the great counter-reformers of the sixteenth century.
Located just outside of Innere Stadt in Wieden, approximately 200 meters outside the Ringstraße, the church contains a dome in the form of an elongated ellipsoid.
In 1713, one year after the last great plague epidemic, Charles VI, Holy Roman Emperor, pledged to build a church for his namesake patron saint, Charles Borromeo, who was revered as a healer for plague sufferers. An architectural competition was announced, in which Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach prevailed over, among others, Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena and Johann Lukas von Hildebrandt. Construction began in 1716 under the supervision of Anton Erhard Martinelli. After J.B. Fischer's death in 1723, his son, Joseph Emanuel Fischer von Erlach, completed the construction in 1737 using partially altered plans. The church originally possessed a direct line of sight to the Hofburg and was also, until 1918, the imperial patron parish church.
As a creator of historic architecture, the elder Fischer von Erlach united the most diverse of elements. The façade in the center, which leads to the porch, corresponds to a Greek temple portico. The neighboring two columns, crafted by Lorenzo Mattielli, found a model in Trajan's Column in Rome. Next to those, two tower pavilions extend out and show the influence of the Roman baroque (Bernini and Borromini). Above the entrance, a dome rises up above a high drum, which the younger J.E. Fischer shortened and partly altered.
Next to the Church was the Spitaler Gottesacker. The composer Antonio Vivaldi died in Vienna and was buried there on July 28, 1741 but his tomb has been lost over time. The church hosts regular Vivaldi concerts in his honour.
Hedwig Kiesler (age 19), later American movie actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr, married Friedrich Mandl (age 32), businessman and Austrofascist, in the tiny chapel of this elaborate church on 10 August 1933. With over 200 prominent guests attending, Kiesler wore “a black-and-white print dress” and carried “a bouquet of white orchids.”
Since Karlsplatz was restored as an ensemble in the late 1980s, the church has garnered fame because of its dome and its two flanking columns of bas-reliefs, as well as its role as an architectural counterweight to the buildings of the Musikverein and of the Vienna University of Technology. The church is cared for by a religious order, the Knights of the Cross with the Red Star, and has long been the parish church as well as the seat of the Catholic student ministry of the Vienna University of Technology.