The Plague Column. A reminder of the plague.
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The Plague Column (Pestsäule), Graben
We now find ourselves in the center of the square , Graben. You can see a high Pillar originally from the Baroque era. That is the plague column.
Numerous plague epidemic’s swept through Vienna. The emperor at the time , Leopold , vowed that if the terrible plague that was killing people like flies, were to leave Vienna, then he would build a monument as a symbol of gratitude. And that was how this column came to be built .
In the top area , you can see figurative representations and lots of small angels heads on the column. Are you standing exactly on the marked spot , on the wider side of the square ?
Then you can see at the base of the pillar, behind the railing, a group of sculptures.
A representation of Faith defeating the plaque- is shown here. An elderly woman, who symbolises the plague, is being pushed into the depths by a little angel. A young woman is standing alongside with a cross, the symbol of faith in her hand. Full of hope she looks to the future. The plague has been conquered !
And above you can see the emperor Leopold praying, -beside him, -his gold- plated crown. So, even an emperor takes off his crown when he prays to God.
Many such columns were built during the baroque era. You’ll also find similar pillars in many other small austrian towns .
Good, that’s enough about pillars, now a few words about the square itself.
You are actually standing on a filled in ditch! The Romans had built a wall to defend their camp. They dug out the material for the wall from here. That is why this square is called Graben – translated it means ditch. The southern fortress of the ancient roman camp is nearly identical to the square opposite you. Around 1200 the ditch or Graben was then filled in, and the city was then extended.
These building projects were financed at the time by the huge amount of ransom money that they received in exchange for the release of the English king, Richard the lion-hearted. Richard was captured as he was on his way back to England from the crusades and held prisoner in Vienna.
In the 17th century there was a flour and vegetable market place here.
Today Graben is lined by elegant buildings and newly decorated Palais’s and is a favourite pedestrian zone in Vienna .