Frauenkirche

Dresden, Germany

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.

Architecture

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.

Destruction

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.

Reconstruction

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.

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Details

Founded: 1726-1743
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Thirty Years War & Rise of Prussia (Germany)

Rating

4.8/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

steve rogerson (5 months ago)
Just outside our hotel in the Neumarket. Bombed during WW2 and best part destroyed, beautifully restored.
Michael Mack (5 months ago)
Beautiful church in Dresden. Rebuilt after WWII. Stunning on both the outside and inside. The altar is amazing and so is the Dome.
Luke River (7 months ago)
What a marvelous church and rich history that comes with it. It was bombed and destroyed during WW2 by ally forces and left in ruin during the communist rules. Then, the church was rebuilt in 8the 1990s and stands firm as a witness of history. The lady staff holding an album of the historical photos near the front area was extremely helpful by explaining its history to visitors. Highly recommended!
Don Pokocha (9 months ago)
A beautiful church located in the middle of Dresden's old city centre. It's a must-see when you visit Dresden. The church was heavily destroyed during World War II but has been beautifully reconstructed. Admission to the church is free of charge. The interior is also breathtaking.
Richard Jack (9 months ago)
Beautiful church to visit. Cost is free to go into the church. You can ascend to the dome for 10 euro. Well worth it. 70 meters high (221 ft) to viewing area. I counted 304 stairs descent with 300 meters of spiral climb (non steps)
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