The Oberbaumgarten Parish Church is a Catholic church and pastoral care centre dedicated to the Four Evangelists. It is located at Baumgartner Spitz in Vienna’s 14th district. Today, the church built between 1963 and 1965 is regarded as an outstanding example for modern sacred architecture. Every part of the building is based on the cube, used as a modular unit. With this systematic structure, the architect Johann Georg Gsteu won first prize in the architecture competition awarded by the diocese. 33 years after the church was built, Gsteu was again commissioned to carry out its general overhaul between 1989 and 1992.
According to the architect, the central-plan building made of reinforced concrete was inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Unlike the ancient Roman rotunda, the ground layout of the Oberbaumgarten Parish Church in Vienna is square rather than circular, with one simple form replacing another. This is perhaps because the square is a more suitable pattern for a modular structure. Another unique reference to the Pantheon is the highly symbolic yet effective lighting concept. The interior of the church is lit by daylight, which falls into the interior space from above and from the side of a cruciform row of windows (originally made of plastic, but subsequently replaced by glass windows after the renovation in 1989). Basically, this cross-shaped band of light is the linking element between four distinct free-standing structures. The altar is the logical focal point, the junction where every design line, every beam of light converges.
Taken as a whole, the building—with its rigorous spatial design—represents not only an architectural but also a liturgical ideal of harmonious proportions and relations. Due to the strict geometric forms, the bell tower is built as a free-standing unit, as a campanile might be in Italy. The parallels between architectural parameters and theological reflections are further underlined by the importance of the number ‘four’. Just as four sections of the building are linked by a cross-shaped band of light and organised around a symbolic centre, the church is dedicated to the Four Evangelists, whose four Gospels complete the story of Christ. This is an essential aspect; indeed, the architect Johann Georg Gsteu later reported that the decision to consecrate the church to the Evangelists emerged during the design process.
TEXT BY JOSHUA KOEB
1965Religious object: catholic church
2018 Religious object: catholic church
1965 Katholische Kirche – Erzdiözese Wien
2018 Katholische Kirche – Erzdiözese Wien
Form of government
1965 Parliamentary Republic
2018 Parliamentary Republic
Spatial Planning Agency
Type of heritage and protection
2018 National monument (BDA 15.6.2004 GdStr. 139/2;139/3 EZ 435; 436 KG 01208 Oberbaumgarten)
Interview with Gregor B.
Interview with Mia N.
Interview with Stefanie H.