Foundation 1933

The impulses that led to the foundation of the so-called "Dom- und Diözesanmuseum" (Cathedral and Diocesan Museum) in Vienna date back to the 19th century, but were first actively pursued under the leadership of Cardinal Theodor Innitzer as of 1933. The already established museums in Brixen, Graz, Klagenfurt, Linz, and St. Pölten might have helped motivate this. The museum was slated to open in 1933, in order to coincide with the “Katholikentag” being held in Vienna, and the 500th anniversary of the construction of the South Tower of St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
 
On June 3. 1933, amidst the dark omens of Austrofascism, the new museum opened the doors to its stately baroque halls in the Archbishop’s Palace on Rotenturmstraße. Its underlying concept was to exhibit treasures of the Diocese and the Cathedral in order to provide "valuable visual aids from the past and present for the study of religious art history," as Cardinal Innitzer put it in the first catalogue. The exhibition was designed to provide teaching material and as such was arranged by eras, its focus being on the portrait of Duke Rudolf IV. as well as his newly discovered burial shroud. Museum activities were geared toward the clergy as well as a general audience, which led to the establishment of an art education program. However, plans to expand the original concept with regard to historical and cultural aspects were thwarted with the outbreak of World War II.