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A hidden gem: Vienna's St Marx cemetery

The Local · 19 Nov 2015, 14:56

Published: 19 Nov 2015 14:56 GMT+01:00

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A cemetery might not be high on your list of places to see when you’re enjoying a holiday or time off work.

But in the case of St Marx, you should think again. Laid out in the 18th century, it has not been in use since 1874. So there is no atmosphere of recent death or mourning - in fact it’s rather a lovely and romantic place to take a stroll and think about life among the hundreds of crumbling monuments, crosses, urns and angels, scattered between trees and surrounded by grass and ivy - a visual symphony of grey and green.

It was laid out in the Biedermeier style of the day, a transitional period between Neoclassicism and Romanticism. It closed in 1873, and the dead were then buried in the huge new Central Cemetery (Zentralfriedhof). St Marx was abandoned to nature and later restored in the 20th century.

One grave which now does receive many visitors, flowers and offerings is that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was buried here in 1791, in an unmarked grave. The current tombstone dates from a later period.

A board at the entrance of the cemetery tells you that many other noteworthy personalities are buried here - including 'famous' hunters and some undertakers, but most visitors will struggle to recognise anyone other than Mozart's name.

Fellow composer Josef Strauss (son of Johann) had his final resting place here, along with Anna Gottlieb - a soprano who was the first Pamina in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute - and one of the inventors of the sewing machine, tailor Josef Madersperger.

Of note too are the many foreigners buried here, including Greeks, Romanians and a few Serbians and Russians - with the memorial inscriptions generally in their languages and sometimes also in German or French, the international language of the time. Note that the Romanian epitaphs are in Cyrillic letters, as was the norm until 1860.

And an unusual sarcophagus-style tomb at the back of the cemetery is inscribed in English to the memory of a British Brigadier General who was military commissioner to the Austrian army and died in Vienna in 1854.

For me, the best time to visit is on a drizzly or overcast day, when the green vegetation really stands out. For some reason, it’s even more beautiful then than it is on a sunny day, and you can really enjoy the solitude and sense of peace.  

To get there, you can walk from Belvedere, or take the 71 tram from Schwarzenbergplatz or the 18 tram from Hauptbahnhof.

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