Vienna Central Cemetery

"Central Cemetery" redirects here. For other uses, see Central Cemetery (disambiguation).
"Zentralfriedhof" redirects here. For the cemetery in Friedrichsfelde, Berlin, see Zentralfriedhof Friedrichsfelde.
Vienna Central Cemetery

The Charles Borromeo Church (aka Dr. Karl Lueger-Gedächtniskirche) at the Vienna Central Cemetery.
Established 1863
Location Simmering, Vienna
Country Austria
Type Public
Size 2.4 square kilometres (590 acres)
Number of graves over 330.000 graves
Number of interments 3 million
Franz Werfel's grave.

The Vienna Central Cemetery (German: Wiener Zentralfriedhof) is one of the largest cemeteries in the world, largest by number of interred in Europe and most famous cemetery among Vienna's nearly 50 cemeteries.

Name and location

The cemetery's name is descriptive of its significance as Vienna's biggest cemetery, not of its geographic location, as it is not situated in the city center of the Austrian capital, but on the outskirts, in the outer city district of Simmering.

History and description

Unlike many others, the Vienna Central Cemetery is not one that has evolved slowly with the passing of time. The decision to establish a new, big cemetery for Vienna came in 1863 when it became clear that – due to industrialisation – the city's population would eventually increase to such an extent that the existing communal cemeteries would prove insufficient. City leaders expected that Vienna, then capital of the large Austro-Hungarian Empire, would grow to four million inhabitants by the end of the 20th century, as no-one foresaw the Empire's collapse in 1918. The city council therefore assigned an area significantly outside of the city's borders and of such a gigantic dimension, that it would suffice for a long time to come. They decided in 1869 that a flat area in Simmering should be the site of the future Central Cemetery. The cemetery was designed in 1870; according to the plans of the Frankfurt landscape architects Karl Jonas Mylius and Alfred Friedrich Bluntschli who were awarded for their project per angusta ad augusta (from dire to sublime).[1]

The cemetery was opened on All Saints' Day in 1874, far outside Vienna's city borders. However the consecration of the cemetery was not without controversy: the interdenominational character of the new cemetery – the different faith groups being interred on the same ground – met with fierce resistance, of course, especially in conservative circles of the Roman Catholic Church.[2]

This argument became even more aggressive when the city announced that it did not want an official Catholic opening of the new cemetery but gave a substantial amount of money toward the construction of a segregated Jewish section. In the end, the groups reached an agreement and the Catholic representatives opened the Central Cemetery with a small ceremony, refraining from a large public show. So the new cemetery was inaugurated almost unnoticed in the early morning hours 31 October 1874, by Vienna Mayor Baron Cajetan von Felder and Cardinal Joseph Othmar Rauscher to avoid an escalation of the public controversy.

The official opening of the Central Cemetery occurred the following day. The first burial was that of Jacob Zelzer, followed by 15 others that day. The grave of Jacob Zelzer still exists near the administration building at the cemetery wall.[3]

The cemetery spans 2.5 km2 (620 acres) with 330,000 interments and up to 25 burials daily. It is also second largest cemetery, after the 4 km2 (990 acres) of Hamburg's Ohlsdorf Cemetery, largest in Europe by number of interments and area.

Viennese joke that the Central Cemetery is "half the size of Zurich, but twice as much fun", (German: Halb so groß wie Zürich – aber doppelt so lustig ist der Wiener Zentralfriedhof!) as the cemetery is half as large as the city of Zurich.[4] The Central Cemetery has a dead population of almost twice the present living residents of Vienna.

Across Simmeringer Hauptstrasse from the main gate is the Crematorium, built by Clemens Holzmeister in 1922 in the style of an oriental fortress.[5]

The church in the centre of the cemetery is named Karl-Borromäus-Kirche (Charles Borromeo Church), but is also known as Dr. Karl-Lueger-Gedächtniskirche (Karl Lueger Memorial Church) because of the crypt of the former mayor of Vienna below the high altar. This church in Art Nouveau style was built in 1908–1910 by Max Hegele. The crypt of the Austrian Federal Presidents is located near the Dr. Karl-Lueger Memorial Church. Beneath the sarcophagus, is a burial vault with stairs leading down to a circular room whose walls are lined with niches where the deceased in an urn or coffin can be interred.


In its early incarnations, it was so unpopular due to the distance from the city center that the authorities had to think of ways to make it more attractive – hence the development of the Ehrengräber or honorary graves as a kind of tourist attraction.

Vienna is a city of music since time immemorial, and the municipality expressed gratitude to composers by granting them monumental tombs. Interred in the Central Cemetery are notables such as Ludwig van Beethoven; Franz Schubert, who were moved to the city in 1888; Johannes Brahms; Antonio Salieri; Johann Strauss II and Arnold Schoenberg. A cenotaph honours Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who is buried in nearby St. Marx Cemetery.

The interdenominational character

In addition to the Catholic section, the cemetery houses a Protestant cemetery (opened 1904) and two Jewish cemeteries.

Although the older of the two, established in 1863, was destroyed by the Nazis during the Kristallnacht, around 60,000 graves remain intact. Cemetery records indicate 79,833 Jewish burials as of 10 July 2011. Prominent burials here include those of the Rothschild family and that of the author Arthur Schnitzler. The second Jewish cemetery was built in 1917 and is still in use today. There were 58,804 Jewish burials in the new section as of 21 November 2007.[6] Officials discovered desecration of 43 Jewish graves in the two Jewish sections 29 June 2012, allegedly as an anti-Semitic act – the stones and slabs were toppled or damaged.[7]

Since 1876, Muslims have been buried at Vienna's Zentral Friedhof. The dead are buried according to Austrian law, in a coffin, in contrast to the Islamic ritual practice; burial in a shroud. The opening of the new Islamic cemetery of the Islamic Faith Community took place 3 October 2008 in Liesing.

The cemetery also contains Russian Orthodox burial grounds (Saint Lazarus chapel, 1894) and plots dedicated for the use of various Orthodox churches. Since 1869, members of the Greek Orthodox community have been buried in Section 30 A, just west of Gate 2, near the arcades. The Romanian Orthodox community is near Gate 3 in Section 38 as are members of the Bulgarian Orthodox churches. The Serbian Orthodox community received portions of Sections 68 B and 69 C, near Gate 3 and Section 27A contains the tombs of the Coptic Orthodox Church.[8]

The Protestant section on the east side is dedicated for the use of both confessions-parts of the Evangelical Protestant church in Austria, the Lutheran A.B (Evangelische Kirche Augsburger Bekenntnis) and Calvinist H.B (Evangelische Kirche Helvetisches Bekenntnis). The cemetery was inaugurated in the presence of the President of the Evangelical Protestant Church, Dr. Rudolf Franz 14 November 1904. The cemetery was expanded in 1926 and 1972 and 1998. The Protestant section consists of 6,000 graves and 300 family vaults.[9]

Europe's first Buddhist cemetery was established in the Vienna Central Cemetery in May 2005. An area of the Central Cemetery has been set aside for this purpose centered around a stupa, and was consecrated by a Tibetan monk.[10]

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Austria celebrated the dedication of an hectare-sized plot set apart for the Mormon deceased in the Vienna Central Cemetery 19 September 2009.


The new Anatomy Memorial opened in Section 26, 5 March 2009, for interments of the Institute of Anatomy of the Medical University of Vienna and for the people who donated their bodies to science.[11]

In 2000, a Baby burial ground opened in Section 35B near Gate 3 where stillborn infants, dead babies, and young children up to 110 centimetres (43 in) of height are interred.[12]


Due to the vast size of the cemetery, private car traffic is allowed on the cemetery grounds every day of the year except November 1/All Saint's Day, although vehicles must pay a toll, currently €2.80. Because of the large number of visitors November 1, private vehicles are not permitted. A public "cemetery bus" line (Route 106) operates on the grounds with several stops to transport visitors.

The old Simmering horse tram was replaced by an electric tram, running from Schwarzenbergplatz to the Central Cemetery, in 1901 and it was renumbered as "71" (der 71er) in 1907: it remains the most popular route to the cemetery using public transport. Among the Viennese, a popular euphemism for a death is that the deceased person "has taken the 71" ("Er hat den 71er genommen").

The "Zentralfriedhof" stop on the Vienna S-Bahn (metro suburban railway) is close to the old Jewish part of the cemetery. The closest underground stop is "Simmering" (Vienna U-Bahn, line U3), about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) from the cemetery.

Cultural references

The musician Wolfgang Ambros honoured the Central Cemetery in his 1975 song Es lebe der Zentralfriedhof ("Long live the Central Cemetery"), marking with it the 100th anniversary of the cemetery's opening.

The Central Cemetery is the scene of Harry Lime's fake and real funeral at the beginning and end of The Third Man.[13]

Notable interments

See also


  1. "Zentralfriedhof – Central Cemetery (Vienna, Austria)". Association of Significant Cemeteries of Europe. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  2. "Info Service: Wiener Zentralfriedhof" [Info Service: Vienna Central Cemetery] (in German). Friedhoefe wien. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  3. "Rund um das Friedhofsareal: Daten und Fakten" [Around the Cemetery Area: Facts and Figures] (in German). Friedhoefe wien. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  4. "Wien und der Tod - eine Geschichte des Wiener Zentralfriedhofs" [Vienna and death - a history of the Viennese central cemetery] (in German). Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  5. "Undertakers' Museum". Vienna Direct. Retrieved 2014-11-03. And less than 20% of the predominantly Catholic Viennese choose cremation, the rest hoping for a schöne Leiche (beautiful corpse).
  6. "JOWBR Cemetery Inventory". 18 July 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  7. "Austria: 43 Jewish graves desecrated in Vienna". The Boston Globe. Associated Press. 29 June 2012. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  8. "Führungen Zentralfriedhof Wien – Die christlich-orthodoxen Begräbnisstätten" [A place for everyone at the Vienna Central Cemetery - the Christian - Orthodox burial sites] (in German). Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  9. "Geschichte des Wiener Zentralfriedhofs" [History of Vienna's Central Cemetery] (in German). Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  10. "Österreichische Buddhistische Religionsgesellschaft" [Austria Buddhist Religion Society] (in German). Retrieved 2013-09-07.
  11. "Anatomie Gruppe 26" [Anatomy group 26] (in German). Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  12. "The Baby Lot at Vienna Central Cemetery". Friedhöfe Wien. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  13. "Location shots in Vienna of The Third Man (1949)". University of British Columbia Physics Department. 13 July 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-03.
  14. Heral Saraçi (2012-09-29), Kush ishin drejtuesit e Partisë Nacionaliste [Who were the leaders of the Nationalist Party] (in Albanian), Gazeta Republika, retrieved 9 February 2014, Hysni Curri është nipi dhe bashkëpunëtori i Bajram Currit. Ai ishte me profesion ushtarak. Në vitin 1909 është anëtar i Kongresit të Manastirit për njësimin e alfabetit të gjuhës shqipe. Pjesëmarrës në kryengritjet e viteve 1910-1912 dhe në mbrojtjen e viseve shqiptare nga pushtuesit sllavë. Ai është organizator i forcave kosovare për mbrojtjen e qytetit të Durrësit nga rebelët. Anëtar i “Komitetit për mbrojtjen e Kosovës” në vitin 1919. Drejtues i operacioneve për asgjësimin e forcave të Esad pashës pas vrasjes së tij në Shqipërinë e Mesme. Pjesëmarrës në Revolucionin e Qershorit. Vdiq në Vjenë në vitin 1925.
  15. Hazir Mehmeti (7 May 2013), Hysni Curri, zëri që thërret prehjen në Atdhe [Hysni Curri, the voice that calls to repose in the homeland] (in Albanian), AlbanianPress, retrieved 9 February 2014

Coordinates: 48°08′58″N 16°26′28″E / 48.14944°N 16.44111°E / 48.14944; 16.44111

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