Dresden Frauenkirche

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100130 150006 Dresden Frauenkirche winter blue sky-2.jpg
Affiliation Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony
Ecclesiastical or organizational status Parish church
Location Dresden, Germany
Geographic coordinates 51°3′7″N13°44′30″E / 51.05194°N 13.74167°E / 51.05194; 13.74167 Coordinates: 51°3′7″N13°44′30″E / 51.05194°N 13.74167°E / 51.05194; 13.74167
Architect(s) George Bähr
Style Baroque
Official Website
Dresden city center sights.png
Red pog.svg
Frauenkirche location within central Dresden
Dresden 1521.jpg
Dresden in 1521 (detail): The earlier church is shown outside the city walls (left of the coat of arms).
Aerial photo of the Frauenkirche in Dresden (photo 2014) Luftbild Frauenkirche Dresden 2014-03-29 - 2.JPG
Aerial photo of the Frauenkirche in Dresden (photo 2014)

The Dresden Frauenkirche (German : Dresdner Frauenkirche, IPA: [ˈfʁaʊənˌkɪʁçə] , Church of Our Lady) is a Lutheran church in Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony. An earlier church building was Catholic until it became Protestant during the Reformation.

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium and Liechtenstein. It is one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages that are most similar to the German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch, including Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Evangelical Church in Germany the association of 20 Lutheran, United and Reformed churches in Germany

The Evangelical Church in Germany is a federation of twenty Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist) and United Protestant regional churches and denominations in Germany, which collectively encompasses the vast majority of Protestants in that country. In 2018, the EKD had a membership of 21,141,000 members, or 25.5% of the German population. It constitutes one of the largest national Protestant bodies in the world. Church offices managing the federation are located in Hannover-Herrenhausen, Lower Saxony. Many of its members consider themselves Lutherans.

Dresden Place in Saxony, Germany

Dresden is the capital city of the German state of Saxony, and with around 550,000 inhabitants, it is the state's second most populous city after Leipzig. It is the 12th most populous city of Germany, the fourth largest by area after Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne, as well as the third most populous city in the area of former East Germany, after (East) Berlin and Leipzig. Dresden is contiguous with Freital, Pirna, Radebeul, Meissen and Coswig, and its urban area has around 780,000 inhabitants, making it the largest in Saxony.


The old church was replaced in the 18th century by a larger Baroque Lutheran building. It is considered an outstanding example of Protestant sacred architecture, featuring one of the largest domes in Europe. It was originally built as a sign of the will of the citizens of Dresden to remain Protestant after their ruler had converted to Catholicism. It now also serves as a symbol of reconciliation between former warring enemies.

Dome architectural element that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere

A dome is an architectural element that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. The precise definition has been a matter of controversy. There are also a wide variety of forms and specialized terms to describe them. A dome can rest upon a rotunda or drum, and can be supported by columns or piers that transition to the dome through squinches or pendentives. A lantern may cover an oculus and may itself have another dome.

Built in the 18th century, the church was destroyed in the bombing of Dresden during World War II. The remaining ruins were left for 50 years as a war memorial, following decisions of local East German leaders. The church was rebuilt after the reunification of Germany, starting in 1994. The reconstruction of its exterior was completed in 2004, and the interior in 2005. The church was reconsecrated on 30 October 2005 with festive services lasting through the Protestant observance of Reformation Day on 31 October. The surrounding Neumarkt square with its many valuable baroque buildings was also reconstructed in 2004.

Bombing of Dresden in World War II British/American air raids on the city of Dresden in Nazi Germany

The bombing of Dresden was a British/American aerial bombing attack on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, during World War II in the European Theatre. In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed over 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre. An estimated 22,700 to 25,000 people were killed, although larger casualty figures have been claimed. Three more USAAF air raids followed, two occurring on 2 March aimed at the city's railway marshalling yard and one smaller raid on 17 April aimed at industrial areas.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 70 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

East Germany Former communist state, 1949-1990

East Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic, was a state that existed from 1949 to 1990, when the eastern portion of Germany was part of the Eastern Bloc during the Cold War. Commonly described as a communist state in English usage, it described itself as a socialist "workers' and peasants' state." It consisted of territory that was administered and occupied by Soviet forces at the end of World War II — the Soviet occupation zone of the Potsdam Agreement, bounded on the east by the Oder–Neisse line. The Soviet zone surrounded West Berlin but did not include it; as a result, West Berlin remained outside the jurisdiction of the GDR.

The Frauenkirche is often called a cathedral, but it is not the seat of a bishop; the church of the Landesbischof of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony is the Church of the Cross. Once a month, an Anglican Evensong is held in English, by clergy from St. George's Anglican Church, Berlin.

A Landesbischof is the head of some Protestant regional churches in Germany. Based on the principle of summus episcopus, after the Reformation each Lutheran prince assumed the position of supreme governor of the state church in his territory. After the First World War, all the German monarchies were abolished and in some regional churches a member of the clergy was elected as Landesbischof.

Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony

The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony is one of 22 member Churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), covering most of the state of Saxony. Its headquarters are in Dresden, and its bishop has his or her seat at Meissen Cathedral.

Kreuzkirche, Dresden church in Dresden

The Dresden Kreuzkirche is a Lutheran church in Dresden, Germany. It is the main church and seat of the Landesbischof of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony, and the largest church building in the Free State of Saxony. It also is home of the Dresdner Kreuzchor boys' choir.


Dresden Market with the Frauenkirche (1749-1751 painting by Bernardo Bellotto) Canaletto (I) 006.jpg
Dresden Market with the Frauenkirche (1749–1751 painting by Bernardo Bellotto)

A church dedicated to 'Our Lady' (Kirche zu unser Liebfrauen) was first built in the 11th century in a romanesque style, outside the city walls and surrounded by a grave yard. The Frauenkirche was the seat of an archpriest in the Meissen Diocese until the Reformation, when it became a Protestant church. This first Frauenkirche was torn down in 1727 and replaced by a new, larger church with a greater capacity. The Frauenkirche was re-built as a Lutheran (Protestant) parish church by the citizenry. Even though Saxony's Prince-elector, Frederick August I, had converted to Catholicism to become King of Poland, he supported the construction which not only gave an impressive cupola to the Dresden townscape but also reassured the Saxonians that their ruler was not going to force the principle cuius regio eius religio upon them.

Romanesque art artistic style of Europe from approximately 1000 AD to the 13th century

Romanesque art is the art of Europe from approximately 1000 AD to the rise of the Gothic style in the 12th century, or later, depending on region. The preceding period is known as the Pre-Romanesque period. The term was invented by 19th-century art historians, especially for Romanesque architecture, which retained many basic features of Roman architectural style – most notably round-headed arches, but also barrel vaults, apses, and acanthus-leaf decoration – but had also developed many very different characteristics. In Southern France, Spain and Italy there was an architectural continuity with the Late Antique, but the Romanesque style was the first style to spread across the whole of Catholic Europe, from Sicily to Scandinavia. Romanesque art was also greatly influenced by Byzantine art, especially in painting, and by the anti-classical energy of the decoration of the Insular art of the British Isles. From these elements was forged a highly innovative and coherent style.

The ecclesiastical title of archpriest or archpresbyter belongs to certain priests with supervisory duties over a number of parishes. The term is most often used in Eastern Orthodoxy and Eastern Catholic Churches and may be somewhat analogous to a monsignor in the Latin Church, but in the Eastern Churches an archpriest wears an additional vestment and, typically, a pectoral cross, and one becomes an archpriest via a liturgical ceremony.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Dresden-Meissen diocese of the Catholic Church

The Diocese of Dresden-Meissen is a Diocese of Catholic Church in Germany with its seat in Dresden. It is suffragan to the Archdiocese of Berlin.

The original Baroque church was built between 1726 and 1743, and was designed by Dresden's city architect, George Bähr, who did not live to see the completion of his greatest work. Bähr's distinctive design for the church captured the new spirit of the Protestant liturgy by placing the altar, pulpit, and baptismal font directly centre in view of the entire congregation.

In 1736, famed organ maker Gottfried Silbermann built a three-manual, 43-stop instrument for the church. The organ was dedicated on 25 November and Johann Sebastian Bach gave a recital on the instrument on 1 December.

The church's most distinctive feature was its unconventional high dome, 96 metres (315 ft) high, called die Steinerne Glocke or "Stone Bell". An engineering feat comparable to Michelangelo's dome for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, the Frauenkirche's 12,000-ton sandstone dome stood high resting on eight slender supports. Despite initial doubts, the dome proved to be extremely stable. Witnesses in 1760 said that the dome had been hit by more than 100 cannonballs fired by the Prussian army led by Friedrich II during the Seven Years' War. The projectiles bounced off and the church survived.

View of Dresden by Moonlight (1838) by Johan Christian Dahl showing the Frauenkirche dominating the skyline Johan Christian Dahl - View of Dresden by Moonlight - Google Art Project.jpg
View of Dresden by Moonlight (1838) by Johan Christian Dahl showing the Frauenkirche dominating the skyline

The completed church gave the city of Dresden a distinctive silhouette, captured in famous paintings by Bernardo Bellotto, a nephew of the artist Canaletto (also known by the same name), and in Dresden by Moonlight (1838) by Norwegian painter Johan Christian Dahl.

In 1849, the church was at the heart of the revolutionary disturbances known as the May Uprising. It was surrounded by barricades, and fighting lasted for days before those rebels who had not already fled were rounded up in the church and arrested.

For more than 200 years, the bell-shaped dome stood over the skyline of old Dresden, dominating the city.

Burials include Heinrich Schütz and George Bähr.


Frauenkirche ruins and Luther Monument in 1958 Bundesarchiv Bild 183-60015-0002, Dresden, Denkmal Martin Luther, Frauenkirche, Ruine.jpg
Frauenkirche ruins and Luther Monument in 1958

On 13 February 1945, Anglo-American allied forces began the bombing of Dresden in World War II. The church withstood two days and nights of the attacks and the eight interior sandstone pillars supporting the large dome held up long enough for the evacuation of 300 people who had sought shelter in the church crypt, before succumbing to the heat generated by some 650,000 incendiary bombs that were dropped on the city. The temperature surrounding and inside the church eventually reached 1,000 °C (1,830 °F). [1] The dome finally collapsed at 10 a.m. on 15 February. The pillars glowed bright red and exploded; the outer walls shattered and nearly 6,000 tons of stone plunged to earth, penetrating the massive floor as it fell.

The altar, a relief depiction of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives by Johann Christian Feige, was only partially damaged during the bombing raid and fire that destroyed the church. The altar and the structure behind it, the chancel, were among the remnants left standing. Features of most of the figures were lopped off by falling debris and the fragments lay under the rubble.

The building vanished from Dresden's skyline, and the blackened stones would lie in wait in a pile in the centre of the city for the next 45 years as Communist rule enveloped what was now East Germany. Shortly after the end of World War II, residents of Dresden had already begun salvaging unique stone fragments from the Church of Our Lady and numbering them for future use in reconstruction. Popular sentiment discouraged the authorities from clearing the ruins away to make a car park. In 1966, the remnants were officially declared a "memorial against war", and state-controlled commemorations were held there on the anniversaries of the destruction of Dresden.

In 1982, the ruins began to be the site of a peace movement combined with peaceful protests against the East German regime. On the anniversary of the bombing, 400 citizens of Dresden came to the ruins in silence with flowers and candles, part of a growing East German civil rights movement. By 1989, the number of protesters in Dresden, Leipzig and other parts of East Germany had increased to tens of thousands. On November 9 1989, the Berlin Wall "fell" and the inner German border dividing East and West Germany toppled. This opened the way to German reunification.

Promoting reconstruction and funding

Secured structural fragments stored and catalogued, September 1999 FrauenkircheCataloguedFragments gobeirne.jpg
Secured structural fragments stored and catalogued, September 1999

During the last months of World War II, residents expressed the desire to rebuild the church. However, due to political circumstances in East Germany, the reconstruction came to a halt. The heap of ruins was conserved as a war memorial within the inner city of Dresden, as a direct counterpart to the ruins of Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed by German bombing in 1940 and also serves as a war memorial in the United Kingdom. Because of the continuing decay of the ruins, Dresden leaders decided in 1985 (after the Semperoper was finally finished) to rebuild the Church of Our Lady after the completion of the reconstruction of the Dresden castle.

The reunification of Germany, brought new life to the reconstruction plans. In 1989, a 14-member group of enthusiasts headed by Ludwig Güttler, a noted Dresden musician, formed a Citizens' Initiative. From that group emerged a year later The Society to Promote the Reconstruction of the Church of Our Lady, which began an aggressive private fund-raising campaign. The organisation grew to over 5,000 members in Germany and 20 other countries. A string of German auxiliary groups were formed, and three promotional organisations were created abroad.

The project gathered momentum. As hundreds of architects, art historians and engineers sorted the thousands of stones, identifying and labeling each for reuse in the new structure, others worked to raise money. IBM provided a key element by contracting with RTI International (www.rti.org), a nonprofit research institute in Research Triangle Park NC (www.rtp.org) to create an interactive virtual reality representation of the Church. The VR drew donations large and small, helping to make the project possible.

Günter Blobel, a German-born American, saw the original Church of Our Lady as a boy when his refugee family took shelter in a town just outside Dresden days before the city was bombed. In 1994, he became the founder and president of the nonprofit "Friends of Dresden, Inc.", a United States organization dedicated to supporting the reconstruction, restoration and preservation of Dresden's artistic and architectural legacy. In 1999, Blobel won the Nobel Prize for medicine and donated the entire amount of his award money (nearly US$1 million) to the organization for the restoration of Dresden, to the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche and the building of a new synagogue. It was the single largest individual donation to the project.

In Britain, the Dresden Trust has Prince Edward, Duke of Kent as its royal patron and the Bishop of Coventry among its curators. Dr. Paul Oestreicher, a canon emeritus of Coventry Cathedral and a founder of the Dresden Trust, wrote: "The church is to Dresden what St. Paul's is to London". [2] (Referring to St. Paul's Cathedral.) Additional organizations include France's Association Frauenkirche Paris and Switzerland's Verein Schweizer Freunde der Frauenkirch.

Rebuilding the church cost €180 million. Dresdner Bank financed more than half of the reconstruction costs via a "donor certificates campaign", collecting almost €70 million after 1995. The bank itself contributed more than seven million Euros, including more than one million donated by its employees. Over the years, thousands of watches containing tiny fragments of Church of Our Lady stone were sold, as were specially printed medals. One sponsor raised nearly €2.3 million through symbolic sales of individual church stones.

Funds raised were turned over to the "Frauenkirche Foundation Dresden", with the reconstruction backed by the State of Saxony, the City of Dresden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony.

The new golden tower cross was funded officially by "the British people and the House of Windsor". It was made by the British silversmith company Grant Macdonald of which the main craftsman on the project was Alan Smith whose father was one of the bomber pilots responsible for the destruction of the church. [3] [4] [5]


The north side in 2006, observing the largest remaining original structure integrated with the restored work FraunkircheSouth.jpg
The north side in 2006, observing the largest remaining original structure integrated with the restored work
(video) External and internal views, December 2014

Using original plans from builder Georg Bähr in the 1720s, the Dresden City Council decided to proceed with reconstruction in February 1992. A rubble-sorting ceremony started the event in January 1993 under the direction of church architect and engineer Eberhard Burger. The foundation stone was laid in 1994, and stabilized in 1995. [6] The crypt was completed in 1996 [6] and the inner cupola in 2000. Seven new bells were cast for the church and rang for the first time for the Pentecost celebration in 2003. The exterior was completed ahead of schedule in 2004 and the painted interior in 2005. [6] The intensive efforts to rebuild this world-famous landmark were completed in 2005, one year earlier than originally planned, and in time for the 800-year anniversary of the city of Dresden in 2006. [6]

The church was reconsecrated with a festive service one day before Reformation Day. The rebuilt church is a monument reminding people of its history and a symbol of hope and reconciliation.

As far as possible, the church – except for its dome – was rebuilt using original material and plans, with the help of modern technology. The heap of rubble was documented and carried off stone by stone. The approximate original position of each stone could be determined from its position in the heap. Every usable piece was measured and catalogued. A computer imaging program that could move the stones three-dimensionally around the screen in various configurations was used to help architects find where the original stones sat and how they fit together. [7]

Of the millions of stones used in the rebuilding, more than 8,500 original stones were salvaged from the original church and approximately 3,800 reused in the reconstruction. As the older stones are covered with a darker patina, due to fire damage and weathering, the difference between old and new stones will be clearly visible for a number of years after reconstruction.

Two thousand pieces of the original altar were cleaned and incorporated into the new structure.

The builders relied on thousands of old photographs, memories of worshippers and church officials and crumbling old purchase orders detailing the quality of the mortar or pigments of the paint (as in the 18th century, copious quantities of eggs were used to make the color that provides the interior with its almost luminescent glow).

When it came time to duplicate the oak doors of the entrance, the builders had only vague descriptions of the detailed carving. Because people (especially wedding parties) often posed for photos outside the church doors, they issued an appeal for old photographs and the response—which included entire wedding albums—allowed artisans to recreate the original doors.

The new gilded orb and cross on top of the dome was forged by Grant Macdonald Silversmiths in London using the original 18th-century techniques as much as possible. It was constructed by Alan Smith, a British goldsmith from London whose father, Frank, was a member of one of the aircrews who took part in the bombing of Dresden. [8] Before travelling to Dresden, the cross was exhibited for five years in churches across the United Kingdom including Coventry Cathedral, Liverpool Cathedral, St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh and St Paul's Cathedral in London. In February 2000, the cross was ceremonially handed over by The Duke of Kent, [1] to be placed on the top of the dome a few days after the 60th commemoration of D-Day on 22 June 2004. [9] The external structure of the Frauenkirche was completed. For the first time since the last war, the completed dome and its gilded cross grace Dresden's skyline as in centuries prior. The cross that once topped the dome, now twisted and charred, stands to the right of the new altar.

Close to completion the building structure dominates the historic skyline again. Dresden, bruehlsche Terrasse 2004.jpg
Close to completion the building structure dominates the historic skyline again.
Interior with view of altar Frauenkirche interior 2008 001-Frauenkirche interior 2008 009.jpg
Interior with view of altar

Builders decided not to reproduce the 1736 Gottfried Silbermann organ, despite the fact that the original design papers, description and details exist, giving rise to the Dresden organ dispute ("Dresdner Orgelstreit"). When installed, the Silbermann organ had three manuals with 43 ranks and over the years had been remodeled and expanded to five manuals with 80 ranks. [10] Daniel Kern of Strasbourg, Alsace, completed a 4,873 pipe organ for the structure in April 2005 and it was inaugurated in October of that year. The Kern organ contains all the stops which were in the Silbermann organ and attempts to recreate their sounds. The Kern work contains 68 stops and a fourth swell manual in the symphonic 19th century style which is apt for the organ literature composed after the baroque period.

A bronze statue of reformer and theologian Martin Luther, which survived the bombings, has been restored and again stands in front of the church. It is the work of sculptor Adolf von Donndorf from 1885.

There are two devotional services every day and two liturgies every Sunday. Since October 2005, there has been an exhibition on the history and reconstruction of the Frauenkirche at the Stadtmuseum (City Museum) in Dresden's Alten Landhaus.

Paintings inside the cupola Dresden Frauenkirche roof by Baccharus - CC by.jpg
Paintings inside the cupola

Since the re-opening

Since re-opening, the Church of Our Lady has been a tourist destination in Dresden. In the first three years, seven million people have visited the church as tourists and to attend worship services. [11] The project has inspired other revitalization projects throughout Europe, including the Dom-Römer Project in Frankfurt, the City Palace of Potsdam, and the City Palace, Berlin. In 2009, US President Barack Obama visited the church after a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Grünes Gewölbe.

Criticisms of reconstruction methods

Architectural historian Mark Jarzombek complained that unidentifiable parts of the ruins were placed in arbitrary locations in the new building. As a result, he said, the socialist monument to the bombing was, in essence, dispersed throughout the fabric of the building. [12]

See also

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  12. By Eleni Bastea, ed. (30 December 2004). "Two: Disguised Visibilities—Dresden/"Dresden". Memory and Architecture (PDF). University of Mexico Press. p. 56. ISBN   978-0826332691 . Retrieved 24 July 2013.