The Church of the Holy Trinity was designed by world-renowned Austrian sculptor Fritz Wotruba and built with the help of architect Fritz Gerhard Mayr between 1974 and 1976. The church is located on the outskirts of Vienna, on top of the Georgsberg, in Liesing, Vienna’s 23rd district. During the Second World War and up until 1949 the site was occupied by military barracks.
The idea for the church was mooted several years before its actual construction. In 1964 Margarethe Ottillinger, a former director of the Austrian mineral oil and gas company OMV, extracted the plans from Fritz Wotruba. Several years passed by until construction was finally decided. Wotruba himself described the idea thus: ’to build something that shows us that poverty need not be ugly, that renunciation can be set in an environment that is beautiful and makes us happy, despite the utmost simplicity’. Sadly, Wotruba did not live to see the completion of the church; he died a year before, on 28 August 1975.
It is hardly surprising that the church looks more like a gigantic sculpture than a sacred building. The iconic brutalist structure consists of 152 asymmetric raw concrete blocks stacked into and on top of one another, weighing a total of 4,000 tonnes. It is a quirk of the irregular architectural structure that the church changes in appearance depending on the viewer’s vantage point, revealing a new image time and time again.
At the time the so-called ‘Wotruba Church’ was built, the absence of a clear, logical structure and the denial of visible references to standard church designs was seen as a provocation. The ten-year delay in construction is a reflection of the strong opposition to Fritz Wotruba’s plans. Times have since changed and, today, the church with its tectonic structure is seen as a role model and a popular testimony to brutalism as an architectural style.
Over the last four years a dispute has arisen between the Austrian Federal Office for the Protection of Monuments (Bundesdenkmalamt) and the church parish over the inclusion of a glass lift in front of the church to guarantee barrier-free access. Even the architect Fritz Gerhard Mayr spoke out against the plans. The debate was brought to an end in 2017 when Austria’s supreme administrative court ruled in favour of construction, and the lift is to be completed by the middle of 2019.
Text by Joshua Koeb
1976Religious (Catholic Church)
2018 Religious (Catholic Church)
1976 Katholische Kirche – Erzdiözese Wien
2018 Katholische Kirche – Erzdiözese Wien
Form of government
1976 Parliamentary Republic
2018 Parliamentary Republic
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
2018 National Monument (BDA 1.3.2005 GdStr. 1283/4 EZ 5973 KG 01806 Mauer)
Interview with Christian S.
Interview with Sarah K.
Interview with Simone K.