from: brochure in hotel room
Vienna dates to the pre-Christian era, rising to prominence in medieval times when the Babenberg dynasty made it their capital. They built the mighty fortification that was Vienna to withstand two prolonged sieges by the Turks. During the reign of the Hapsburg dynasty, and following the defeat of the Turkish armies in the 17th century, the city began to expand past the fortifications. This was the Baroque Age, as area that witnessed the blossoming of music, art and architecture in Europe. Splendid palaces, like the Hofburg, Schönbrunn and the Belvedere, were either begun or built during this period.
The second age of Viennese architecture came after 1857, when Emperor Franz Josef had the walls of the fortification pulled down, replacing them with the Ringstrasse. This wide boulevard was designed in the same horseshoe pattern as the old walls, and on the borders splendid buildings were erected. Few cities in the world can boast the diverse styles and quality of architecture of Vienna - or the simple and convenient way to view them all.
St. Stephan's Cathedral was originally built on site in 1147, allegedly because the city wanted a bishop. The building was destroyed by fire, though traces of it can still be viewed in the catacombs. It was replaced in the following century and parts of that second building are incorporated in the present structure. Over the next 600 years there were continued additions to both the structure and ornamentation. Inside the north tower, the Alderturns, is the great 22 ton bell, the Pummerin (the Boomer), made from a melted-down Turkish cannon. Like the cathedral itself, this was destroyed in the last war and had to be rebuilt. On the opposite side is Alte Steffi, the belfry where Pummerin was first housed. There are 345 stairs to the belfry and there is a spectacular view of the city as far as the "Wienerwald," the Vienna Woods which are rolling wooded hills bordering Vienna on the west. Nearby stands the statue of the cathedral's founder, Rudolph IV, holding a model of the building in his hand. His grave is in the Marienchor.