Mausoleum & St. Catherine’s Church, Graz, Austria 1

Mausoleum, Graz, Austria 1

If nothing else, the Habsburgs believed in making a grand exit.

In 1614, Archduke Ferdinand commissioned his beloved court architect Giovanni Pietro de Pomis to build his Mausoleum and St. Catherine’s Church (both pictured here).

But when Ferdinand became Emperor and de Pomis died, the half-finished Mausoleum was left to languish in stone dust. Since nobody had the urge or the funds to do more, Ferdinand II was buried in a cold – and empty – shell.

It remained neglected until 1687. At that point, Ferdinand II’s grandson, Emperor Leopold I, hired a Graz wunderkind named Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach to complete the Mausoleum’s interior.

Saint Bonus: The church facade is crowned by the figure St. Catherine of Alexandria, the famous Roman-era martyr who was condemned to death on a spiked breaking wheel. A touch from Catherine’s fingers shattered the wheel into hundreds of pieces. (Note where the statue’s left hand is resting.) She was beheaded instead.

Thanks to a stunning demonstration of Christian oratory at her trial – she bested 50 of the Roman Emperor’s best philosophers defending Christianity – St. Catherine is also the patron saint of universities. That’s why this church overlooks the former Jesuit college where Graz University was founded.