Zwinger Palace

Dresden, Germany

The Zwinger is a palace built in Baroque style and designed by court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann. It served as the orangery, exhibition gallery and festival arena of the Dresden Court. The location was formerly part of the Dresden fortress of which the outer wall is conserved. The name derives from the German word Zwinger (an enclosed killing ground in front of a castle or city gate). Today, the Zwinger is a museum complex that contains the Old Masters Picture Gallery, the Dresden Porcelain Collection and the Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments.

Augustus the Strong, King of Poland and Elector of Saxony, returned from a grand tour through France and Italy in 1687–89, just at the moment that Louis XIV moved his court to Versailles. On his return to Dresden, having arranged his election as King of Poland (1697), he wanted something similarly spectacular for himself. The fortifications were no longer needed and provided readily available space for his plans. The original plans, as developed by his court architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann before 1711, covered the space of the present complex of palace and garden, and also included as gardens the space down to the Elbe river, upon which the Semperoper and its square were built in the nineteenth century.

The Zwinger was designed by Pöppelmann and constructed in stages from 1710 to 1728. The Zwinger was formally inaugurated in 1719, on the occasion of the electoral prince Frederick August’s marriage to the daughter of the Habsburg emperor, the Archduchess Maria Josepha. At the time, the outer shells of the buildings had already been erected and, with their pavilions and arcaded galleries, formed a striking backdrop to the event. It was not until the completion of their interiors in 1728, however, that they could serve their intended functions as exhibition galleries and library halls.

The death of Augustus in 1733 put a halt to the construction because the funds were needed elsewhere. The palace area was left open towards the Semperoper square (Theatre Square) and the river. Later the plans were changed to a smaller scale, and in 1847–1855 the area was closed by the construction of the gallery wing now separating the Zwinger from the Theatre Square. The architect of this building, later named Semper Gallery, was Gottfried Semper, who also designed the opera house.

The building was mostly destroyed by the carpet bombing raids of 13–15 February 1945. The art collection had been previously evacuated, however. Reconstruction, supported by the Soviet military administration, began in 1945; parts of the restored complex were opened to the public in 1951. By 1963 the Zwinger had largely been restored to its pre-war state.

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Details

Founded: 1710-1728
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in Germany
Historical period: Thirty Years War & Rise of Prussia (Germany)

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Lin Zhang (15 months ago)
Strongly recommend to get a guide (e.g. free walking tour) as the palace is huge and many interesting stories about it. There are so many small little details you may miss out without a good guide. There is a construction going on, so now may not be the best time to visit.
Melvin Yong (2 years ago)
Visited on weekdays, not crowded so it was a good walk around the building. Nice garden with interesting baroque architecture. However, a large part of it is still undergoing some constructions.
kimmy jackson (2 years ago)
Incredible place! Sadly we were here during renovations, so we didn't get to see it in it's full glory, but it's super cool even under construction.
MR (2 years ago)
Very interesting set of buildings. Totally rebuilt after the war by using whatever blocks were still useable. The orange (as in the fruit) greenhouse is marvelous.
Anne H (2 years ago)
The Zwinger complex is incomprehensible until you’ve visited! You have no idea how grand it is until you’re there. We visited the grounds and the Old Masters Picture Gallery. Even though the grounds are getting worked on, the architecture is impressive enough to appreciate its grandeur. We really enjoyed the gallery as well.
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