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St. Stephen Westfront

1926

2011

The giant gate, a photo from 2011 - after the restoration of the west façade. If you want to know how it looked there in 1926, before the devastating destruction of the Second World War, click on the year.


Today one enters St. Stephen's Cathedral through the Romanesque "Giant Gate". It is located in the western front between roman towers (Heidentürme) and dates from the years 1230/1240.

According to legend, the name "Riesentor" comes from the mammoth bone found there, or rather from the Middle High German word "risen". That means as much as "sink", "fall" and concerns the funnel form of the inwardly deep and diagonally sloping portal.

Riesentor Detail

In the tympanum of the round-arched funnel portal, Christ is enthroned on a rainbow as a world judge with a bare knee. The mandorla surrounding him is held by angels. He has raised his right hand as a blessing and holds the Book of Life in his left hand.

Riesentor Tympanon

On the columns of the portal there are half-figures depicting the twelve apostles as well as the evangelists Mark and Luke. Below them runs a narrow frieze zone with animals, dragons, devils and fantasy figures.

Riesentor, rechte Seite

On the right side you can see two dogs with a common head tied in tendrils, then a fox pulling a human by the hair. Between a lion and a monkey, one of them grabs the pointed hat of the man in front of him (in the Middle Ages: representation of the Jews) and lifts his axe to a blow (Hackl ins Kreuz), then follows a little devil and a man with his hands raised in front of dragons intertwined. The relief (covered in the picture) is launched by an animal body with a human head and a dancing siren.

The columns are covered with ornamental ribbons and plant reliefs. The bud capitals already show the influence of the Gothic period.

Riesentor, Ornamentband

Inside the gate, the funnel-shaped portal is supported by seven columns, some of which are bound and woven (to bind evil). In their plant capitals, at the upper end, it is dramatic: human heads with wide-open eyes, grimaces and animal heads peer out, above them the life of humans is played out wavering between bliss and damnation: monkeys, devils, who want to put a snare around the neck of humans to prevent them from entering the church, two court birds pointing to salvation and damnation.

Riesentor, Gerichtsvögel

alongside man and devil in perpetual battle

Riesentor, Mensch u. Teufel

Above the frieze then a clear, calm separation - the transition to the heavenly sphere where the apostles have gathered, directed towards Christ. (Source: Unser Stephansdom Nr.112; Reinhard H. Gruber: Der Stephansdom)

In the masonry of the portal vestibule, rectangular niches depict a griffin, lions, Samson and a judge with his legs crossed over each other.


Samson and the lion

Samson and the Lion