The Dresden Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is considered an outstanding example of Protestant sacred architecture, featuring one of the largest domes in Europe. 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.
A church dedicated to Our Lady 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 parish church by the citizenry. Even though Saxony's Prince-elector, Frederick August I, reconverted to Roman Catholicism to become King of Poland, he supported the construction which gave an impressive cupola to the Dresden townscape.
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.
The church's most distinctive feature was its unconventional 96 m-high dome. 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.
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.
On 13 February 1945, Anglo-American allied forces began the bombing of Dresden. 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. The dome finally collapsed 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.
Using original plans from builder Georg Bähr in the 1720s, reconstruction finally began in January 1993. The foundation stone was laid 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.References:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.