A medieval chapel buried in the Stephansplatz UBahn

Virgil Chapel in the Stephansplatz UBahn

To complete my day of going further and further back into history, I took the time to stop off at the Virgilkapelle, which is dimly visible behind glass in the Stephansplatz U. The chapel was discovered during the excavations for the train station in 1973, and is considered to date back to at least the early 13th century at the time of the Babenberg rulers. An outline of the original church is now drawn on the Stephansplatz above for tourists to notice and wonder.

There are several such excavated sites all around the city – the UBahn construction unearthed many ancient walls and buildings. It’s a kind of metaphor for Vienna itself. Vienna is made up of layer upon layer of history – republics upon empires, modern buildings built of plaster and glass over the bones of older brick structures, museums built to look older than their time and containing even older objects excavated from nearby and captured from far away, Franz Josef’s Ring palaces built over the demolished city wall in styles that borrowed and imitated from centuries before, hidden histories buried – denied – revived – revised. As long as there has been a “Vindobona” along the banks of the Donau, there has been intrigue, war, culture, and people just trying as best they can to live their lives day to day. Like the Tels of the ancient near east, Vienna is a city built upon earlier cities. It is fitting that it was in Vienna that Freud himself turned to archaeology as a metaphor for psychoanalysis – the examination of the human soul.


About pcooperwhite

Christiane Brooks Johnson Professor of Psychology and Religion, Union Theological Seminary, New York NY
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