Vienna Plague Column (‘die Wiener Pestsäule’), also known as Trinity Column (‘Dreifaltigkeitssäule’) is a Baroque style column in Graben street in Vienna, erected to commemorate victims of Great Plague in 1679. It is one of the most prominent monument and sculpture ensemble in Vienna and Austria. It is famous not only because of intricate design and artistic expression, but also due to a time it took for it to be designed and built.
Name: Vienna Plague Column (Trinity Column)
Type of attraction: Monument/Column
Location: Graben Street, the 1st district, Innere Stadt
Public transport: Accessible by walking from within city center. From outside of city center, U1 (stop: Stephansplatz)
Opening hours: Always open.
Official website: N/A
Usually, monuments of this type are built as a gratitude to God and Holly Trinity for defeating Great Plague (and also Ottoman siege of Vienna). Columns of these type were common in Roman era, where Roman Emperor would be presented on the top of the pillar. With spread of Christianity, columns were used for religious purposes, to commemorate a disaster and show thanks to the Divine for the help.
Emperor Leopold pledged to build the column when the pandemic was over and gave the orders in 1679, but column was completed only in 1694. There were several design proposals and attempts for column to be completed and finally conceptual idea of Lodovico Burnacini was materialized in the column as we see it today.
The column tells several stories, between Great Plague and Second Siege of Vienna, all of them culminating through ornate iconography to depict Emperor praying to angels and God and, on the top level a Holly Trinity is a final stage in this story, which obviously ends well for everybody.
Since it is dedicated to Holy Trinity, the column has three sides, dedicated each to one entity: the western side to God the Father, the eastern – Son of God and northern side – Holy Spirit. Due to its importance the column’s style was frequently copied and imitated across the Austria.
Today, Vienna Plague Column has even more symbolic meaning as with COVID-19 pandemic, many are returning to it and learning about past pandemics and its impact on a humanity. We wonder if Emperor Leopold ever thought that his column to the Great Plague will encounter another plague, almost 350 years later.
Columns of this purpose were quite common in those days, although not so monumental as Vienna Plague Column, obviously. Two columns come to mind: Prague Column, built after Thirty Year War and Mariensäule, built in Munich in 1638. The latter was built to celebrate avoiding the plague, not going through it.