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.References:
The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249.
At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Members of the family most often found fame in military service, during the Renaissance they expanded their estates through economic activity. From the middle of the 15th century members of the family occupied the highest offices in the land. However, the family’s position in Moravia really changed under the brothers Karel, Maximilian, and Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Through marriage Karel and Maximilian acquired the great wealth of the old Moravian dynasty of the Černohorskýs of Boskovice. At that time the brothers, like their father and grandfather, were Lutheran, but they soon converted to Catholicism, thus preparing the ground for their rise in politics. Particularly Karel, who served at the court of Emperor Rudolf II, became hetman of Moravia in 1608, and was later raised to princely status by King Matyas II and awarded the Duchy of Opava.
During the revolt of the Czech nobility he stood on the side of the Habsburgs, and took part in the Battle of White Mountain. After the uprising was defeated in 1620 he systematically acquired property confiscated from some of the rebels, and the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia, rising in status above the Žerotíns. Their enormous land holdings brought them great profits, and eventually allowed them to carry out their grandious building projects here in Lednice.
In the 16th century it was probably Hartmann II of Liechtenstein who had the old medieval water castle torn down and replaced with a Renaissance chateau. At the end of the 17th century the chateau was torn down and a Baroque palace was built, with an extensive formal garden, and a massive riding hall designed by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach that still stands in almost unaltered form.
In the mid-18th century the chateau was again renovated, and in 1815 its front tracts that had been part of the Baroque chateau were removed.
The chateau as it looks today dates from 1846-1858, when Prince Alois II decided that Vienna was not suitable for entertaining in the summer, and had Lednice rebuilt into a summer palace in the spirit of English Gothic. The hall on the ground floor would serve to entertain the European aristocracy at sumptuous banquets, and was furnished with carved wood ceilings, wooden panelling, and select furniture, surpassing anything of its kind in Europe.