Foundation 1933

The impulses that led to the foundation of the so-called "Dom- und Diözesanmuseum" (Cathedral and Diocesan Museum) in Vienna date back to the 19th century, but were first actively pursued under the leadership of Cardinal Theodor Innitzer as of 1933. The already established museums in Brixen, Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz, and St. Pölten might have helped motivate this. The museum was slated to open in 1933, in order to coincide with the “Katholikentag” being held in Vienna, and the 500th anniversary of the construction of the South Tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
 
On June 3. 1933, amidst the dark omens of Austrofascism, the new museum opened the doors to its stately baroque halls in the Archbishop’s Palace on Rotenturmstraße. Its underlying concept was to exhibit treasures of the Diocese and the Cathedral in order to provide "valuable visual aids from the past and present for the study of religious art history," as Cardinal Innitzer put it in the first catalogue. The exhibition was designed to provide teaching material and as such was arranged by eras, its focus being on the portrait of Duke Rudolf IV. as well as his newly discovered burial shroud. Museum activities were geared toward the clergy as well as a general audience, which led to the establishment of an art education program. However, plans to expand the original concept with regard to historical and cultural aspects were thwarted with the outbreak of World War II.

Relocation 1973

The relocation of the Archiepiscopal Cathedral and Diocesan Museum in 1973 was the result of an attempt to strengthen the museum's connection to the Cathedral and to the public. The space in the Baroque state rooms in the Archbishop's Palace at Rotenturmstraße was no longer sufficient and was not easily accessible to visitors. Cardinal König instigated a reorganization of the collection in 1971, and offered the former residence of the Cathedral Provost, located in the Zwettlerhof building at Stephansplatz, to house the museum's expansion. It was now located directly across the street from St. Stephen's Cathedral.

A scholarly assessment of all objects was decided upon, as well as a reorganization of the exhibition which no longer reflected a purely chronological order. The museum curators arranged the objects according to topical commonalities: Gothic panels, Medieval sculptures, Baroque drawings, and Romance painters were each grouped together. The most precious liturgical objects were displayed alongside objects associated with Duke Rudolf IV. in a treasury. Furthermore, the new space allowed for special exhibitions which were mounted twice a year in a seperate area and dealt with specific themes.

In 1982, a further highlight was added to the historic treasures: The Otto Mauer Collection, a definitive collection of Austrian post-war Avant-garde, was incorporated into the museum's holdings.

Renovation 2013-2016

"When the Church decides to once again cast its fate with contemporary art, that is when Charisma will emerge," said the very eloquent cathedral preacher Monsignor Otto Mauer in 1972, during one of his notable "International Conversations on Art." Forty years later, in 2012, the Vienna Archdiocese decided to meet the renowned collector and art patron's demands: The Archiepiscopal Cathedral and Diocesan Museum was closed and a conceptual redesign and a comprehensive renovation launched. The Otto Mauer Collection, which comprises more than 3,000 highlights of the Viennese Avant-garde, as well as Expressionist and Secessionist works, was to be brought to the fore.

The architectural and conceptual redesign is accompanied by a deliberate embrace of the tension-filled areas between religion, art, and society: Dom Museum Wien serves as a platform for intercultural and interfaith apporaches to dialogue between historic and contemporary art.

The expanded museum that now opens up out onto Stephansplatz provides a space where invaluable objects that inspire curiosity and amazement can be experienced, discovered, and discussed within the framework of state-of-the-art art education programs. The permanent exhibition, which features the most precious objects of the historic Cathedral treasury, is supplemented with a varied program of special temporary exhibitions that deal with historic and socio-cultural issues.

These permanent and temporary exhibitions, as well as discoursive programs guarantee the continuation of Monsignor Otto Mauer's legacy: A contemporary perspective on historic sacred art combined with the funding and promotion of contemporary artistic practice. As such, Dom Museum Wien offers inspiring insights into 1,000 years of art- and Church history.

About Otto Mauer

Monsignor Otto Mauer (1907–1973) was one of the most important personalities of Austria's post-war Avant-garde. An avid collector himself, he was heavily invested in realigning Austria's post-war art scene with international currents, and by doing such, helping to re-embed the country within the world discourse. His focus was always very much on the dialogue between art and religion.

In 1954 he opened the Galerie St. Stephan at Grünangergasse 1. It afforded him a space to advance and promote contemporary art. Initially, he focused mainly on Informal Painting, and on works by four young painters who in 1956 formed the artist group Malergruppe St. Stephan: Wolfgang Hollegha, Josef Mikl, Markus Prachensky, and Arnulf Rainer. Following criticism inside the Church, he was forced to rename the gallery "Galerie nächst St. Stephan" ("Gallery next to St. Stephen's") in 1963. It became a place for exhibitions of contemporary art, poetry readings, music, discussions, as well as the famed "International Conversations on Art."

Otto Mauer was an exceptionally gifted theologist and orator, who would often put his skills to use in speeches critical of the National Socialist regime - wherefore he often required protection by Cardinal Innitzer. His own collection of more than 3,000 works of modern, as well as Austrian and international Avant-garde art has been incorporated into the Dom Museum Wien holdings since 1980. It represents a touchstone of the museum's new exhibition concept.