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Kaisergruft (Imperial Burial Vault) Review

On the southwest corner of the Neuer Markt, the Kapuzinerkirche, or Capuchin Church, is home to one of the more intriguing sights in Vienna: the Kaisergruft, or Imperial Burial Vault. The crypts contain the partial remains of some 140 Habsburgs (most of the hearts are in the Augustinerkirche and the entrails in St. Stephen's) plus one non-Habsburg governess ("She was always with us in life," said Maria Theresa, "why not in death?"). Perhaps starting with their tombs is the wrong way to approach the Habsburgs in Vienna, but it does give you a chance to get their names in sequence, as they lie in rows, their pewter coffins ranging from the simplest explosions of funerary conceit—with decorations of skulls, snakes, and other morbid symbols—to the huge and distinguished tomb of Maria Theresa and her husband. Designed while the couple still lived, their monument shows the empress in bed with her husband—awaking to the Last Judgment as if it were just another morning, while the remains of her son (the ascetic Josef II) lie in a simple copper casket at the foot of the bed as if he were the family dog. In 2011, 98-year-old Otto Habsburg, the eldest son of the last emperor, was laid to rest here with as much pomp as is permissible in a republic.

Updated: 06-15-2012

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