Legends

In a city as old as Vienna, there are bound to be some tales about its history that, let’s say, may not be completely factually accurate. But the legends of Vienna are still an important part of our culture and many of them are connected to events in our history, such as…

...the construction of St. Stephen’s cathedral
Viennas large gothic cathedral had already taken centuries to construct, but it was finally nearing completion after the head architect, Hans von Prachatitz had finally completed the southern tower and only the northern tower remained to be built. But Prachatitz had grown tired in his old years and it seemed that the final phase of construction would drag on longer than expected.
Prachatitz had an apprentice, however, the young Hans Puchsbaum, who, as it happened, was in love with Prachatitz’ daughter, Mary. He finally decided to confess his feelings to his master and ask for the girls hand in marriage. But Prachatitz wouldn’t have it - his daughter should only marry the finest architect there was, and only if Puchsbaum would manage to complete the northern tower in no more than a year and a day’s time - a task that everyone knew to be impossible, as the southern tower had taken at least four years to build - would he prove himself worthy.
Poor Puchsbaum went home crushed, but that night (legend has it) the devil appeared to him and offered his assistance: He would see to it that the tower would be completed in time if Puchsbaum managed to refrain from speaking the name of God, the holy virgin or any saints until construction finished. The Architect was aghast at the thought of not being able to pray or attend mess for a whole year, but in his desperation he finally relented, thinking to himself that he could still pray in his thoughts.
For the next few month everything seemed to be going well: there were no accidents, masons and builders worked day and night and deliveries all arrived on time. Event though the tower was still only half-built, it looked as though Puchsbaum might actually achieve the impossible.
Then one Sunday morning, after having spent the whole night working on the tower, Puchsbaum was looking down at the assembling congregation and noticed a familiar face that, as he’d been so caught up in his project, he hadn’t seen in weeks. ‘Mary!’ he shouted down at her, realising too late what he had done. As his beloved was looking up to see who had called, the devil appeared behind him and pushed him down the tower, killing him and to this day the northern tower of St. Stephen’s remains unfinished.

...the plague epidemic
The plague hit Europe multiple times during the middle ages and the early modern age. Vienna was struck particularly badly in 1679 when at least somewhere around 10.000 people were killed - it got so bad, that the people couldn’t bury the dead individually but rather dug out holes to dump multiple bodies in, cover them with chalk and repeat the process until the ditch was filed.
At this time there was a musician in Vienna called Augustin who would usually play in taverns, drinking up most of his earnings right away and moving on to the next place. He was beloved in Vienna because of his friendly manner and his humorous musical style. On his way home after one night of particularly heavy drinking, he stumbled on his way and fell into a hole with several plague-ridden dead bodies, but being as drunk as he was, he just went to sleep and spent the night there. The next morning he woke up and started to play his bagpipes, alerting the people on the street who then rescued him. Miraculously (or perhaps because he was protected by his Wiener Schmäh) he did not contract the disease.

...finding a basilisk in a well
Okay this one isn’t actually connected to a historical event, but you can still visit the house where it is said, that a horrible creature was once found at the bottom of a well by a baker’s apprentice. After much debate about what to do a wise traveller was able to identify as a basilisk and knew, that its gaze could turn people to stone. Fortunately the apprentice was brave enough to climb down the well and hold a mirror to the face of the basilisk, turning its gaze on itself and turning it to stone. Still today there is a stone sculpture of the basilisk and a fresco telling its story.

...being besieged by the army of the Ottomans (especially the second time)
The situation during the second siege of Vienna was growing pretty grim in 1683, as food supplies were narrowing and the morale in the city was running low. It was clear that the city couldn’t be held for much longer and there was no news of relief from the rest of the empire. However, during one stormy night in that August, a salesman named Georg Franz Kolschitzky who had previously traveled east and knew the Turkish culture and language offered to leave the city in an attempt to alarm the emperor. When he was caught in the Ottoman camp he managed to convince them that he was simply a salesman, concerned with food supplies for the army and was let go. He returned several days later with news of imperial, Venetian and Polish forces gathering nearby, thus lifting the spirits of the Viennese people.
The Ottomans were later defeated by those forces and driven back, but the cultural significance of the battle was enormous: Viennese bakers invented the Kipferl, more commonly known as croissant (which was later brought to France by Marie-Antoinette, but that’s a different tale) in reference to the crescents on the Ottoman flags and, after finding several bags of coffee-beans in the Ottoman camps, Kolschitzky (at least according to legend) was given the permission to open the first coffee house in Vienna, thus beginning the tradition of Viennese coffee - we owe you one, Kolschitzky!

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