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The lower one of the two main towers of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the north tower, is 68.3 metres (223 ft) tall, only about half the height of the south tower. When its construction started, the plan was that both towers would look the same. However, tastes for architectonic styles gradually shifted and height-obsessed Gothic gave its way to Renaissance. The construction of the north tower was first halted in 1511 and then finished with a renaissance cap in 1578. People in Vienna often call this cap “water tower top”.
A legend says that the construction of the north tower stopped in 1511 because its architect broke his pact with the devil and he was thrown from the top of the tower and died. In reality lack of funds and the withdrawal of Gothic were the reasons.
The north tower hosts the largest bell of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Pummerin (Boomer). Officially it is named for St. Mary. Pummerin weights 21,383 kilograms (44,380 pounds) and therefore it gives another superlative to the Stephansdom, as it is the second largest swinging bell in Europe (the biggest one is Peter in Cologne Cathedral).
Pummerin was first cast in 1705 from 208 cannons taken from the Turks after the Battle of Vienna and consecrated in 1711. In the end of World War II in 1945 its wooden cradle burned when there was a fire in the Cathedral and Pummerin fell onto the floor. It was recast in 1951 and now has 3.14 metres (9.6 ft) in diameter. As the biggest bell of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral Pummerin has a unique role. It rings only on a few special occasions, including the arrival of the New Year.
You can have a close look at the Pummerin if you take the lift for EUR 4.50 (children for EUR 1.50). The lift operates every day all year round, in high season (summer months) from 8:30 am to 6 pm, in winter from 8:30 am to 5 pm.
There are other three bells in the north tower which are not in operation any more. The oldest one, Kleine Glocke (Small Bell) was cast in 1280 and weights just 62 kilograms. The two other bells are Speisglocke (Dinner Bell), cast in 1746, and Zügenglocke (Processions Bell), cast in 1830.
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