Frederick III in St. Stephen’s Cathedral: A tutankhamun in Vienna

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ÜFor much of the twentieth century, the assumption that Emperor Friedrich III. did not rest under his tons of marble grave cover in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. For the first time in more than five hundred years, there are now pictures from inside the Imperial Tomb. The resting place of Frederick III, who ruled for a full 41 years from 1452 until his death in 1493 and was extensive, is the largest single monument in the Vienna Cathedral. And since an “autopsy” carried out in 2013, but only now being presented in Vienna, it has finally been proven that it contains not only the corpus of the emperor, but also the enamelled, gold-plated crown and the imperial insignia.

The tomb of Frederick III, created by the most important sculptor of the fifteenth century, Niclas Gerhaert von Leyden. Adnet’s red marble is, in addition to Riemenschneider’s Heinrichsgrab in Bamberg Cathedral, the most complex medieval imperial burial site north of the Alps. The extensive complex, on which Niclas Gerhaert worked until his death in 1473, has been located at the end of the right aisle of St. Stephen’s Cathedral since 1513, near the Blessed Sacrament on the high altar. In order to counter the rumors that Friedrich was not lying in the grave at all, the cathedral authorities agreed in 1969 to drill a small hole through the thick stone of the grave so that specialists could check whether there was a body inside. With the help of a tiny lamp and a mirror, it was confirmed that the remains of the emperor were inside.

The inside of Europe's last untouched imperial tomb was explored using small cameras.


But with the technology from back then it was not possible to take photos through the microscopic opening. The small hole was reopened six years ago to document the interior of the grave in detail with an endoscope camera. However, the spectacular images remained confidential and were only made accessible after a joint research project between the cathedral and the Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna.

A coffin made of glazed ceramic tiles

Franz Kirchweger, a curator of the leading Kunsthistorisches Museum, reports that when he looked at the pictures he felt “like Howard Carter, who was the first to see the wealth in Tutankhamun’s tomb”. The British archaeologist had lit a candle in 1922 through a small hole in the wall of the tomb of the Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and saw an abundance of golden objects.



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