Over a long time the gothic church that now dominates the old town had a special significance for the region’s craftsmen who were organized in guilds, called “Zünfte”, according to their profession. Every profession had its own side chapel inside the church. These guild chapels have been preserved until today.
Sankt Stephan (dedicated to its patron Saint Stephen) was built between 1439 and 1466 by Stephan Krumenauer and is one of the most significant churches in the late Gothic style in the whole of Austria. The impressive hall church with its three-aisled nave and the slim, seven-story tower has become a prominent landmark for Braunau and the whole Innviertel region. The baroque, bulb-shaped roof construction was added in the 18th century. With a total height of almost 87 meters the church tower is the sixth highest in Austria.
Inside St Stephan the visitor finds a long nave with two side aisles. A number of buttresses form a total of 12 side chapels, each dedicated to another guild (“Zunftkapellen”). If you direct your look to the ceiling, you can view a beautiful example of a typical Gothic rib vault ceiling. The pillar’s capitals are decorated with apostles and angels.
Though simple in its overall impression, the entire church is decorated with numerous works of art that date back until its time of construction. A fine example is the famous and extremely valuable guild altar in the baker’s chapel, which dates back to the 15th century and is one of the very few preserved Gothic wing altars in Upper Austria.
On the outside walls of the church various valuable epitaphs can be found, among them the one of Hans Staininger, the “man with the long beard“, who was mayor of Braunau in the 16th century and died in a great fire when tripping over his own beard.
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