His name is Rathausmann – City Hall Man. Well, how else should he be called standing on the tallest tower of Vienna City Hall? He looks small from the ground, but Viennese sometimes let foreign tourists guess what size his pointed shoes are? Try to guess yourself (correct answer at the end of the article).
In good and bad weather, the City Hall Man stands with dignity in his high position, which is not so easy, especially during a storm, because the flag he holds in his right hand deviates by up to 25 cm. Inside the figure, however, there is a special construction with a counterweight, which is an iron ball weighing 800 kg! And the morning star at the end of the pole serves as a lightning rod!
The City Hall was built in 1872 – 1883 in the neo-Gothic style. Franz Joseph sat on the throne, setting the condition that the new building must not be taller than the nearby Votive Church (99 m). The emperor had a special relationship with this church. In 1853, he escaped death in a failed assassination attempt. Although he was still young at that time and not so popular yet, as many as 300,000 people donated money for the construction of a new church as a symbol of thanks. The Votive Church was built in 1856 and is one of the most important neo-Gothic sacral buildings in the world.
Friedrich von Schmidt, the architect of the City Hall, found a typical “Viennese solution” – he planned the city hall to a height of 97.9 m, then he placed a 3.4 m high figure of a knight on its central tower, who also holds the flag, and thus exceeds the building another two meters. The City Hall, therefore, has a total height of up to 103.3 m!
In 1985, the City Hall tower and the City Hall Man were renovated. At that time, three names were found immortalized in the pedestal: Ludwig Wilhelm – the owner of the locksmith workshop where the figure was made and it was him who donated it to the city, Franz Gastell, who made a plaster model, and Alexander Nehr, who made a knight from 4 mm thick copper sheet. It took him four months. As the model, he used the armour of Emperor Maximilian I from the 15th century, which was borrowed for this purpose by a workshop from the military arsenal. Nehr made one such armour for himself and marched proudly in it during the grand opening of the City Hall.
In the pedestal, to which the figure is attached with a 75 kg heavy screw, there was also a date: October 21, 1882. This was the day Rathausmann was placed on top of the tower using a steam engine and capstans (100 years later, they used a helicopter).
It may seem to some that there must be boredom high on the tower because only occasionally pigeons or ravens fly by. But I think the knight always has something to look at because something is still going on in the square in front of the City Hall. It is most busy here in the pre-Christmas period when famous Christmas markets take place here. Immediately after that, the square and the park turn into an “ice dream” for ice skaters.
But there are also many other events and festivals. During the pandemic, at least the huge purple word OIDA, which Viennese so gladly and often use, was reminiscent in the Viennese dialect of four basic rules: distance, washing your hands, staying at home and wearing a face mask.
The gilded miniature statue of the Town Hall Man is presented by the Mayor of Vienna as an award for special services to the city. A copy of the knight is located in the southern part of the park. Better to say, it should be located. When I went there to take a picture of him, there was only an empty pedestal. Who knows, maybe the City Hall Man also adhered to those anti-pandemic measures and stayed at home…
And what about the size of his foot? The knight measures 3.4 m and weighs 1800 kg. Of course, the size of the foot must also correspond to this dimension – 63!
When you come here, you can also notice the Habsburg double eagle, “hidden” under the balcony from the side. Remember the emperor’s order and look at the nearby Votive Church towers. They are higher, and they are not higher… Maybe it is also because on their spikes there are imperial crowns, and not crosses as if it should be appropriate to a church…
Text: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri
Fotos: © Copyright Ingrid, Travelpotpourri