Dresden is located in the former Communist East Germany just a short distance from Poland. Nearly bombed out of existence by American B-17s on the night of February 13, 1945, it suffered casualties estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000 civilians, as well as about 75% of the old city. Dresden is only recently recovering from decades of neglect under the Communist regime. Many of the buildings are being restored to their original condition, when the city was referred to as the “Florence of the North”. Dresden is one of the cultural centers of Europe, with museums, art galleries, magnificent churches, and the Semper Oper, built in the 1870s and home to many of Richard Wagner’s great works.
It is an eerie feeling to travel into this city, which was once nearly destroyed by the American bombers, then secluded behind the “Iron Curtain” for half a century. You have to wonder how the old-time residents feel about Americans. Did our persistence in freeing their city from Communist rule make up for that terrible night in 1945, when more people died in their city in one night than the total number of Americans killed during the entire Vietnam War? If the Americans had seen the city as I saw it, the city may have been spared.
Dresden exit on the autobahn.
Approaching downtown Dresden, the road follows the Elbe River. The Finance Ministry building
of the former Communist East Germany is visible across the river.
Dominating the Old Town is the Catholic Cathedral. Built in the mid-18th century, the church did not attain Cathedral status until 1980. It is adjacent to, and was at one time connected to, the Royal Palace.
Forty-nine Saxon kings are buried here, as is the heart of Augustus the Strong. The rest of Augustus was buried in Krakow, Poland.
We were wondering if his headstone says, “I left my heart in Dresden”. I hear a song coming on!
The alter of the Dresden Catholic Cathedral.
To put things in perspective, note the person cleaning by the base of the candles.
The rear of the sanctuary of the Catholic Cathedral. The organ pipes are surrounded by ornate sculptures.
On the outside of the church, numerous figures line the roofs. Years of no pollution standards under the Communist regime coated everything with a thick, black layer of soot and industrial fallout.
In this picture, restoration efforts are very visible in these two figures. The figure on the right and part of the building behind it await cleaning.
Another figure on the roof of the Dresden Catholic Cathedral.
One of the entrances to the Zwinger Museum courtyard. There are 7 museums surrounding the courtyard area.
The complex was built in the 18th century by Augustus the Strong.
(I assume his heart was still intact at the time).
These three characters were watching over the entrance to the Zwinger Museum courtyard.
The Dresden Semper Oper (Opera House) named after the famous architect Gottfried Semper who designed and built the first Opera House from 1838-1841.
Richard Wagner was appointed music director in 1843, but the building burned down in 1869. Semper drew up plans for the new Royal Court Theatre while living in Vienna.
His son, Manfred, was responsible for overseeing the construction from 1871-1878. The building was nearly destroyed in the February 1945 air raid.
Restoration began in 1977, and was completed in 1985.
Inside of the Semper Oper. In addition to the main floor-level seating, there are 4 rows of balconies.
A side street in Dresden. Visible in the background is the Hausmann Tower, part of the Royal palace.
Side street cafes. Mexican, Italian, American, etc.
Evidence of the 1945 bombing still exists throughout the city.
The Procession of the Dukes, a 300+ foot-long wall depicting the 35 rulers of the House of Wettin (what this area was before it was called Germany) from the 12th-19th centuries.
Originally completed in 1872 using the sgraffito technique (cutting away layers to expose different colors of plaster or clay), the material quickly aged.
The wall was carefully re-created in 1906-1907 using over 25,000 Meissen porcelain tiles. This was one of the few works of art not destroyed in the May 1945 bombing.
Close-up of the Procession of the Dukes wall.
Sunrise on the Elbe River.
Once used as a Nazi (and later, Communist) troop-train depot, the Dresden train station shows obvious signs of
the movement to a free-market economy. (Hint - Coca-Cola!)
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The Frauenkirche was once Germany’s largest Protestant church. Nearly destroyed in the February 1945 bombing , it is now the site of Dresden’s most massive restoration project.
Under the Communist regime, the pile of rubble sat undisturbed for nearly 50 years until the early 1990s.
As part of the Frauenkirche restoration, individual stones were labeled and stored on racks to be placed in their original position. It is a very tedious process.
The original gold cross which once stood atop the 312-foot-high dome. Money to restore this came from several of the American bomber pilots who nearly destroyed Dresden in WW II.
** The following section contains excerpts from the Dresden web site. **
Some spellings are not traditional English.
History of Frauenkirche
Planning the New Church
In 1722 the City Council decided to build a church to replace the deteriorating Gothic „Church of our Dear Lady." The task of planning was given to State Master Builder and Architect George Baehr. The first draft, somewhat clumsy with its cruciform floorplan and domed tower and choir, matured in a difficult four-year planning process into its final form - the central dome crowning a cruciform supporting structure.
The authorisation to plan and build the Frauenkirche was given on 26th June 1726 by Count August von Wackerbarth, then in charge of military and civil building in Dresden. On 26th June 1726 the final draft was approved, and soon afterward on 26th August the cornerstone of the new church was ceremonially laid. The foundation of the choir was completed by year-end 1726 so that the old church could be torn down.
Despite many financial difficulties the structure had progressed to its main ledge in 1729. On the 28th of February 1734 the interior of the Frauenkirche was consecrated. Two years later Johann Sebastian Bach himself played at the organ built by Gottfried Silbermann. In 1738 the elegant sandstone dome was complete, and on 27th May 1743 construction was finished with the placing of the cross at the top of the dome.
The Frauenkirche after completion.
Destruction On the night of 13-14th February 1945 Dresden was immersed in a firestorm of bombs. Countless historic structures, which had come together over centuries to constitute a city ensemble of unique harmony, collapsed in ruin. At first it appeared that the Frauenkirche had survived the inferno; nevertheless on 15th February at 10.00 A.M. it too fell in on itself - the inner columns, fired to red heat during the aftermath of the bombing, couldn't support the weight of the massive dome any longer.
„Anyone who has forgotten how to weep learns it anew with the destruction of Dresden." Gerhart Hauptmann
View of bomb-destroyed Dresden in February 1945.
Plans for Reconstruction
As early as April 1945 Dresdners expressed the wish to rebuild their Frauenkirche. In 1946 the first studies of the possibility of archaeological reconstruction took place. Preliminary planning began. The extensive restorations of 1924-32 and 1938-43 provided through their conscientious, detailed documentation an ideal basis for planning. In the period 1948-49 the salvaging, evaluation, and inventorying off approximately 600 cubic meters (785 cubic yards) of reusable stone was accomplished. However, the political situation at the time didn't permit continuation of the work. In contrast, numerous important historical buildings in destroyed West German cities - Cologne, Muenster, Munich, and Wuerzburg, for example - were from that time continually under restoration and are again part of these cities' unmistakable image.
Removal of the Debris
Following the establishment of the Stiftung Frauenkirche e.V. as builder, the detailed planning began. In February 1992 the site was turned over to the builder. In the 18 months of the archaeologically painstaking removal of the debris until May 1994, the 13-meter (42-foot) high mound, encompassing 22,000 cubic meters (28,775 cubic yards), was cleared. Thousands of reusable architectural pieces and stones were salvaged, including the fallen tower cross, the sarcophagus of George Baehr, the sculpture „Ecce homo," and many other valuable discoveries.
The Cleared Ruin
At the end of May 1994 the cruciform floorplan of the undercroft became recognizable. The portions of the ruin which remained standing are being included in the rebuilt structure. On the southern edge of the construction site are to be found the construction management office, the surveying tent, and the shelves with the salvaged stone.
Restored, roughly finished Main Chamber:
The stonework in the main chamber of the church was complete up to the wreath sill by midyear 2000. Of the large vaults binding the interior pillars, the last to be finished was that of the apse. The arches over the balconies and the stairways have been finished. The steel framework of the fourth balcony has also been mounted, and the scaffolding has been taken down, leaving only the tower in the centre. Even at this point it is possible in looking past the curved balconies to the ceiling vaults to imagine the special and very widely discussed feeling of space which the old Frauenkirche conveyed. Above the wreath sill staging has been built, closing for a time the chamber from above. On it rest the scaffolding and the templates for the construction of the inner dome.”
Recording of Data
Directly at the construction site the salvaged stone quadrants and other hewn pieces intended for reuse are identified, technically described, and photoelectronically so thoroughly recorded so that the collected information is available to the architect, the engineer, the preservationist, and the scientist for further investigations and the reconstruction planning.
Storage of the Stone
The salvaged and carefully tagged stones have been stored on the south side of the construction site for their later repair and setting. In the stonecutters' hut at the site, the artisans process and repair the damaged stones in accordance with the exact instructions of the stone technician: damaged areas are removed and, true to the original, sized stone pieces of old sandstone are anchored to the original stone with mortar and metal dowels.
** For more detailed information on the restoration, **
please click on the Dresden link below.
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Hope you enjoyed Dresden!