Dresden was not only the center of Saxony, a prosperous and developed city of Germany, but arguably also capital of the Protestant Church, a title held by the city thanks to its daring and brilliant architectural masterpiece, the Frauenkirche, a 352-foot-high stone dome, a stunning expression of pure Baroque architecture. King Augustus’s most notable legacy to the city of Dresden in terms of architecture is the great Protestant Frauenkirche, Church of Our Lady.
The church was designed to be placed in the area of Neumarkt (New Market Place), where the lack of a large site became an advantage, as the church’s four towers made up the very same image from any direction one looked, this being a trademark of the construction. Around the Central Market of Dresden, employing even Italian architects, a number of fine baroque palaces and houses were built during the reign of Augustus; unfortunately, none has survived. Augustus’ desire was to transform the river Elbe into a waterway that could stand alongside the likes of the Grand Canal in Venice.
To this aim, he commissioned architect Popplemann to build an elegant bridge that was later replaced because of its impracticability from the perspective of navigation. The church’s construction lasted for seventeen years, from 1726 to 1743. The architect in charge was George Bahr, who created his sketches of the Frauenkirche as a reflection of contemporary Protestant dogma, in the sense that the central space of the church’s interior was very large, allowing the religious services to take place in the center of the church, with worshippers crowding the galleries around.
There were also two other elements which were awarded a great deal of importance when building the Frauenkirche, namely the High Altar for Eucharist, and an impressive organ for the music accompanying the ceremonies. Apart from the fact that the Frauenkirche was an incredibly imposing building, and that it represented a landmark in Dresden, and the Protestant world in general, it was also the embodiment of spiritual unity, expressed especially by its dedication to the Virgin Mary, a quite unusual feature for a Protestant church. (Clayton, Anthony; Russell, Alan, p.
70) The Free State of Saxony (Sachsen) is the most densely populated and industrialized region in Eastern Germany. Germanic Saxon tribes originally occupied large parts of north-western Germany, but in the 10th century they expanded southeastwards into the territory of the pagan Slavs. In the south, Saxony is separated from Czech Bohemia by the Erzgebirge, Eastern Germany’s highest mountain range. The Elbe river cuts northwest from the Czech border through a picturesque area known as “Saxon Switzerland”, towards the capital, Dresden.
Leipzig, a renowned educational and commercial center on the Weisse Elster River, rivals Dresden in historic associations. Quaint little towns, like Gorlitz and Meissen, punctuate this colorful corner of Germany. (Saxony, http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Saxony) Dresden will always be associated with the terrible WWII fire-bombing raid which took place on the night of February 13, 1945 destroying the entire center of the city. At least 35,000 people died at a time when the city was jammed with refugees and the war was almost over.
This horrific attack is the basis for the book Slaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, who was a prisoner of war in Dresden at the time. Quite a number of Dresden’s great baroque buildings have been restored, including the city’s architectural masterpiece, the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), whose 12-year long reconstruction was very laborious and enormously expensive. Until it was destroyed during the bombings of World War II, Frauenkirche was Germany’s greatest Protestant church. The German Democratic Republic had declared the ruins a war memorial to remain untouched.
Soon after the reunification of Germany, popular opinion was heard and the church was scheduled for reconstruction, a very long process which ended in 2005. The very spot where the church was built holds great significance for the city of Dresden. This was the place where, at the middle of the 11th century, the foundation of the city was laid, when monks founded a Christian missionary center for the conversion of pagan Slavs. Later on, merchants settled here, at the crossing point over the river Elbe. In 1485, the Saxon part of the Wettin family created the royal city of Dresden, as it would later be known.
The most flourishing epoque of Dresden came after the Thirty Years War, with the arrival of the king of Poland, who then became Augustus, Elector of Saxony. The period under Augustus transformed Dresden into a city of over 40,000 people, a major European capital with a court famous in all of Europe for its wealth, progress and splendor. Wearing elegant clothes decorated with jewels, Augustus would participate in the lavish court festivities dedicated to the Greek gods (Mars, Saturn, Diana, Venus, Neptune, and Jupiter).
Artistic manifestations such as ballet, opera and comedy became a trademark of the Saxon court. Over the years, Augustus managed to raise a stunning collection of silver and gold work, porcelain and paintings which later became not only his personal reason of pride, but also that of his state. Augustus’ contribution to the fame and wealth of his state consisted not only of artistic material, such as paintings and sculpture, but also of technical instruments.
With the help of this small collection of tools, Augustus was able to establish what would now seem as a small university, an intellectual institution which lacked the rigors of present-day universities, but gathered architects, artists, cartographers, mathematicians, great minds who were drawn by the Saxon court. (Clayton, Anthony; Russell, Alan, p. 17) In the 18th century, the Saxon capital Dresden was famous throughout Europe as the “Florence on the Elbe” (Rebuilding Dresden’s Frauenkirche, http://www.
expatica. com/actual/article. asp? subchannel_id=56&story_id=24739). During the reigns of Augustus the Strong (r. 1694-1733) and his son, Augustus III (r. 1733-63), Italian artists, musicians, actors and craftsmen, particularly from Venice, flocked to the Dresden court. The Italian painter Canaletto depicted the rich architecture of the time in many paintings which now hang in Dresden’s Alte Meister Gallery, alongside the countless masterpieces purchased for Augustus III with income from the silver mines of Saxony.
A very good example of Canaletto’s works illustrating the city of Dresden and its beautiful Protestant symbol, the Frauenkirche, is a painting entitled Dresden Market with the Frauenkirche. (Dresden Frauenkirche, http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Dresden_Frauenkirche) The 18th century saw the real blossoming of Dresden’s cultural life, when the city became the spring of a rapid development which would be remembered as the most impressive and perhaps the most significant period of time not only in the cultural history of Germany, but in that of the entire continent.
Dresden is the hometown of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–68), considered by many as the founder of classical archaeology, with his famous article, Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Painting and Sculpture, published in 1755, which would represent “the manifesto of German Classicism” (Clayton, Anthony; Russell, Alan, p. 199). His vision of simplicity and serenity later became an important influence upon notable writers such as Goethe and Schiller, both paying several visits to Dresden.
On the occasion of these visits, the two witnessed important events in the history of Europe, such as the beginning of the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon, but they also created the opportunity for the providential meeting between Schiller and Christian Gottfried Komer, who would, years later, compose “the first musical setting for Schiller’s Ode to Joy” (Clayton, Anthony; Russell, Alan, p. 199), and would offer his summer house to the writer as a place of tranquility and inspiration. It is precisely during one of his stays here that Schiller writes his famous tragedy, Don Carlos.
As a consequence of the immense creative productivity in German cultural life, this era, loosely comprised between the middle of the 18th century and the 1830s, is now referred to as the “Age of Goethe”. The dawn of the 1980s saw the transformation of the Frauenkirche ruins into a symbol of the German Democratic Republic peace movement. Moreover, on the evening of each year’s February the 13th, peace demonstrators would gather in front of the ruins for a silent remembrance of the war and its victims.
The troubled final months of 1989 witnessed an initiative on the part of the people of Dresden that would forever change the history of their city. They gathered with the aim of rebuilding Frauenkirche using a campaign entitled “Appeal from Dresden”, a call for public support to reconstruct the church. The purpose of the Frauenkirche Foundation Dresden was to raise enough money through donations to cover around 50% of the costs of rebuilding estimated at $180 million (€ 132 million); their target was not only met, it was exceeded.
In the event, more than $135 million (€ 100 million) was collected via donations around the world. (Dagmar Giersberg, The Reconstruction of Dresden’s Frauenkirche, http://www. goethe. de/ges/rel/thm/skm/en942577. htm). The Dresden Trust established three strong independent branches outside Germany, in three countries which greatly contributed to the reconstruction of Frauenkirche. These branches are located in Great Britain, France (Paris) and in the United States of America (where the Trust is called Friends of Dresden).
Other important sums of money were raised as a result of German and foreign initiatives such as lectures, publications, exhibitions, benefit concerts, and then turned over to the Frauenkirche Foundation Dresden, and its main supporters, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony, the State of Saxony and the City of Dresden. It was a huge financial challenge; nevertheless it was an initiative that echoed and gave rise to waves of support throughout the world. Then Chancellor Helmut Kohl made a 1 million DEM donation (€ 1/2 million).
The Dresdner Bank collected almost € 70 million for the reconstruction. “I was overwhelmed by people’s willingness to donate”, said Herbert Walter, Chairman of the Board of Managing Directors of Dresdner Bank. “The reconstruction also proved that in Germany we can achieve something if we really want to. ” (Ceremonial Consecration of Dresden’s Frauenkirche, http://www. allianz. com/en/allianz_group/press_center/news/commitment_news/culture/news9. html). Another method of raising money for the reconstruction was to sell watches that contained tiny pieces of the dismantled walls of Frauenkirche.
Thousands sold, adding an important amount of money to the total sum. The reconstruction of Frauenkirche was interpreted as a sign of reconciliation between the main opposing forces of WWII, and was largely supported by donations made by several German and English foundations. There is somewhat of a legend circulating, according to which, in the early 1990s, during a birthday party attended by a large number of wealthy influential guests, through what seemed a joke at the time, Chancellor Kohl was given the chance to raise money for the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche.
He did not hesitate and, when his guests inquired as to what the Chancellor would want for his birthday, he replied that only the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche would be a suitable gift. This is how, according to some, IBM got involved in the project: one of their high representatives was present, overheard Germany’s Chancellor at the time and decided to offer his company’s support to the German state. (Kenneth Asch, Rebuilding Dresden) The German people wanted its church back. This is why architects chose to rebuild the church according to the original plans, using as much original material from the site as possible.
In the end, almost 8,000 original stones were put back in their places. (New Cupola for Frauenkirche, http://www. dw-world. de/dw/article/0,,1243268,00. html) “The term of archaeological reconstruction in the understanding of art historians and the professionals participating in the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche, meant the reconstruction according to the plans of its builder George Bahr, taking into consideration the master builder’s principles, using reusable original materials as well as still standing parts of the ruin and the foundation masonry, and also with careful additions according to today’s engineering standards.
” (W. Jager, T. Burkert, The Reconstruction of the Frauenkirche in Dresden) A 17-months study of the original plans preceded the actual start of the reconstruction of the church. The biggest challenge facing architects and engineers was identifying and cataloguing the pieces recovered from the construction site. After previous restorations, the construction team had more than 10,000 photographs of recovered pieces. These photographs were to be immediately matched to each piece as it was recovered and photographed once more with the ones lying adjacent, a very long and tiring process for everyone involved.
Each piece was given a label containing its characteristics that had previously been measured electronically. The final step consisted of placing the restored items in the depository located next to the cathedral. “Some 8,390 of these pieces of facade, ceiling, roofing and assorted decorative embellishments, accounting for 90,000 electronically generated images, will ultimately have contributed a quarter of the finished building” (Kenneth Asch, Rebuilding Dresden).
The real building process was launched in May 1994, with the symbolic gesture of laying the foundation stone. The first thing the building team had to learn and apply to this particular case was the method of sandstone-working, one which consists of choosing the suitable mortar (a key procedure especially in the case of the joints of a construction). In the case of Frauenkirche, the usage of this particular technique was most important when assembling the cupola of the cathedral. (http://www. goethe.
de/ges/rel/thm/skm/en942577. htm) In order to understand the amount of work this project entailed, as well as its degree of difficulty, one must look at the facts and figures of the rebuilding process. With the help of computer software, it was possible to calculate the volume of the heap of ruins that amounted to 21. 200 m? , and covered an area of 3. 220 m?. The first phase of the project was that of preparation. This stage of the process relied on both manual and mechanical techniques of recovery.
The following stage, that of experimental investigations was closely related to several analyses of both old, and new material, as well as the original mortar. “The tests with regard to masonry were carried out jointly with the chair for Planning of Load Bearing Structures of the Faculty of Architecture and the Otto-Mohr-Laboratory of the Faculty for Civil Engineering of the Dresden University of Technology. ” (W. Jager, T. Burkert, The Reconstruction of the Frauenkirche in Dresden)
The cupola was originally endowed with rather large glass openings, serving as windows, which permitted the light to penetrate the interior of the church. The original cupola of the Frauenkirche was a double-shell piece, with the two shells “interconnected by transverse masonry pieces” (W. Jager, T. Burkert, The Reconstruction of the Frauenkirche in Dresden). As far as the organ was concerned, the constructors decided not to use a reproduction of the original Sibermann organ.
This led to a dispute, later known as the “Dresden organ dispute” that was stirred by the misunderstanding that the new organ would be entirely modern and would not resemble the old one in any respect. The organ was brought in April 2005 from Strasbourg, France, where it was built by Daniel Kern. The new organ represents an attempt to reconstruct all the original stops, but others were added as well in order for it to become suitable for more recent music, as composed after the baroque period when the church was initially built.
Another important aspect in its reconstruction is the restoration of the bronze statue of Martin Luther, the father of the Protestant Church. At present, the statue can be seen in front of the Frauenkirche, in the exact same spot where it stood from 1885 until the 1945 bombings. (Dresden Frauenkirche, http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Dresden_Frauenkirche#Reconstruction) Perhaps the most interesting element of the reconstruction of Frauenkirche is the 30ft golden cross placed atop, partly paid for by Coventry Cathedral in England.
The British-made cross that now embellishes the roof of the new cathedral was created by the son of an English pilot who took part in the bombings which reduced the historic city of Dresden, including its major Baroque buildings to rubble. Before being given as a present to the region of Saxony, and Dresden, the cross was on display in Coventry for several months, as a symbolic gesture which, according to Coventry Cathedral’s Rev Peter Berry, was to seal the bond between the two cities, “The cross is wonderful – a most marvelous piece of craftsmanship – and serves to emphasize the very deep link between Coventry and Dresden.
Both cities suffered serious damage and loss during the war, and a special link was formed as a part of Coventry Cathedral’s ministry of peace and reconciliation. ” (Cathedral Adornment a Shining Symbol; Cross that so many admired in our city now atop its rightful place, Coventry Evening Telegraph, England, June 24 2004) Thanks to immense financial efforts and very long hours on the part of the team managing the project, the reconstruction was completed in 2005, one year earlier than planned, and cost approximately $218 million (Landmark Dresden Church Completes Rise from the Ashes, http://www. dw-world. de/dw/article/0,2144,1758986,00. html).
The process of rebuilding Frauenkirche was greatly supported by modern technology. The most impressive technology consisted of computer software which could move the recovered original stones three-dimensionally around the screen in various configurations. This helped architects find where the original stones were and how they fit together, in order for the reconstruction to respect the authenticity of the original.
Among the numerous personalities who attended the Frauenkirche consecration in October 2005, was the Duke of Kent representing Britain’s royal family, the French, British and American ambassadors to Germany, as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel. Nonetheless, perhaps the most fortunate witnesses of this event were 844 Dresdners who were given this honor as a result of a lottery drawing (Rebuilding Dresden’s Frauenkirche, http://www. expatica. com/actual/article. asp? subchannel_id=56&story_id=24739).
As a result of its reconstruction, the Frauenkirche is once again a place of worship, pilgrimage for Protestants, and a must-see for all visitors of the city. The church will return to its status of ‘oasis’ of tranquility and peace in the heart of a very vibrant and economically stable city such as Dresden, but it will also host ecumenical meetings where people from all corners of the world will gather. The number of visitors who attend weekly services, Christmas vespers, and cultural events of all sorts in the church testify to the spiritual power that is generated by the Dresden cathedral.
Apart from the desire to resurrect a monumental edifice, itself a victim of WWII, this project has a great merit: it links Germany with its own cultural heritage, which appears distinct from the nation’s burdened past, and offers a symbolic touchstone for modern German history. In this way, the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche embodies something more complex than mere forgetting of what happened 60 years ago. It contributes to healing the German people’s wounds, undoing feelings of loss and guilt, while at the same time embracing a hurtful past. Works Cited: Asch, Kenneth.
“Rebuilding Dresden. ” History Today. Vol. 49, Oct. 1999 “Ceremonial Consecration of Dresden’s Frauenkirche. ” Allianz Group, 28 Oct. 2005, April 2007, http://www. allianz. com/en/allianz_group/press_center/news/commitment_news/culture/news9. html Clayton, Anthony; Russell, Alan. “A City Reborn. ” Berg: New York, 1999 Deutsche Welle staff. “Landmark Dresden Church Completes Rise from the Ashes”. Culture and Lifestyle, Deutsche Welle World, 29 Oct. 2005, April 2007, http://www. dw-world. de/dw/article/0,2144,1758986,00. html “Dresden Frauenkirche.
”Wikipedia, April 2007, http://en. wikipedia.org/wiki/Dresden_Frauenkirche Furlong, Ray. “Dresden Ruins Finally Restored. ” BBC News, 22 June 2004, April 2007, http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/europe/3830135. stm Giersberg, Dagmar. “Building Bridges – Living Reconciliation – The Reconstruction of Dresden’s Frauenkirche. ” Ecclesiastical Buildings: Churches and Mosques in Germany, Goethe Institut, Oct. 2005, April 2007, http://www. goethe. de/ges/rel/thm/skm/en942577. htm Jager, W. , Burkert, T. “The Reconstruction of the Frauenkirche in Dresden.
”Historical Constructions, P. B. Lourenco, P. Roca (Eds. ): Guimaraes, 2001, Internet, http://209. 85. 135. 104/search? q=cache:zdBQPcYU2IAJ:www. civil. uminho. pt/masonry/Publications/Historical%2520constructions/page%2520167-186%2520_Jager_. pdf+Reconstruction+of+Dresden+Frauenkirche&hl=ro&ct=clnk&cd=19&gl=ro Purcell, Anita. “A New Cupola for Frauenkirche. ” Deutsche Welle World, 23 June 2004, April 2007, http://www. dw-world. de/dw/article/0,,1243268,00. html “Rebuilding Dresden’s Frauenkirche. ” Expatica, Oct. 2005, April 2007 http://www. expatica. com/actual/article. asp? subchannel_id=56&story_id=24739 Saxony, Wikipedia, April 2007, http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Saxony
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