Dresden’s stunning Frauenkirche was originally constructed between the years 1726 and 1743 and was designed by the Dresden city architect George Bähr. Frauenkirche was built as a Lutheran Protestant church during the Prince Elector Frederick August I’s time. The fact that Frederick August I, who was a catholic, did not hinder the construction of a new and large Lutheran church in one of his cities has surprised many historians.
Today, Frauenkirche is one of the more well known churches in Germany. Frauenkirche have housed many famous people throughout the years. Johann Sebastian Bach gave, for example, a smaller concert after the organ had been installed.
Frauenkirche’s architecture if very different compared to other major churches and cathedrals in Germany. Instead of typical Gothic architecture with tall towers and spires, the baroque-styled Frauenkirche is focused around its massive, 96 meter high dome, called “die Steinerne Glocke”; “the Stone Bell”.
The dome weighs a massive 12.000 ton and is made of sandstone.
Frauenkirche gave the city of Dresden a distinctive silhouette. Even though it was attacked during the Thirty Years War, the church held its ground. For more than 200 years, the bell-shaped dome stood over the skyline of old Dresden, dominating the city landscape.
Bombing of Dresden
However, the Frauenkirche that stands today is sadly not the original church that once stood in that very same spot. During the Second World War, on 13 February 1945, allied forces began the bombing of Dresden. Frauenkirche withstood two days and nights of the attacks before surrendering to bombs.
The heat generated by the 650,000 incendiary bombs that were dropped over the city caused the dome to collapse at 10 a.m. on the 15th of February. The pillars glowed bright red and exploded, shattering the outer walls, causing nearly 6000 tons of stone to crash down and flatten the building.
Left in shatters
Frauenkirche, the building that had dominated the Dresden skyline, suddenly had vanished. Not only the church, but more or less the whole old city centre of Dresden was flattened during the air raid of February 1945. The blackened stones would lie in wait in a pile in the center of the city for the next 45 years as the Communists took control over what by now had become East Germany.
The new government lacked both the real will and the money to reconstruct the church, but rather left it the way it was and had it serve as a memorial against the madness of war and as a symbol over the Allied forces aggression.
Restoration at last
Even though the government did not intend any reconstruction of the Frauenkirche, the residents of Dresden took matters into their own hands and began. Shortly after the end of the war, they began to salvage parts of the church which potentially could be used in a future reconstruction.
In 1985, Dresden finally decided that the time to reconstruct Frauenkirche had come. After the reunification of Germany, the process gained momentum as people started to get involved in the reconstruction of the once magnificent church. As hundreds of architects, art historians and engineers sorted the thousands of salvaged stones, identifying and labeling each for reuse in the new structure while others worked on raising money.
Original plans used
Using the original plans used by builder Georg Bähr in the 1720s, the work to reconstruct the church to its former glory finally began in January 1993. In order to create a good replica of the original Frauenkirche, the building team relied on everything from thousands of old photographs, memories of worshippers and church officials to crumbling old purchase orders, detailing the quality of the mortar or pigments of the paint. The foundation stone one the church was laid one year later in 1994.
Of all the millions of stones used in the reconstruction work, more than 8,500 stones had been salvaged from the original Frauenkirche and around 3,800 could be reused in the reconstruction. Visitors to the will be able to see these stones as the older stones are much darker in color, due to fire damage and more than 200 years of weathering.
By looking at one of the side window sections on the north side of the Frauenkirche, visitors can see the largest implementation from the original church. It gives a good impression of how much the weathering and fire changed the colors of the stones, as the original Frauenkirche once was as bright shining as the one standing today.
The reconstruction of this famous landmark stood finished in 2005, one year earlier than originally planned. In total, the rebuilding the Frauenkirche cost around €180 million, mostly raised by ordinary people from all over the world.
Why visit Frauenkirche ?
Today Frauenkirche, together with a bronze statue of the reformer Martin Luther – which actually survived the bombings, stands as glorious and as beautiful as ever. Since its reopening, it has been visited by an estimate of seven million people, seeking to discover its beauty.
The church interior’s pastel color, its angels and many grand balconies makes many people think the church looks more like a catholic church, or even a theatre, than a protestant church. It clearly shows that this church is something more than just an ordinary church.
The rebuilt Frauenkirche is a monument reminding people of its beautiful and troublesome history and a symbol of hope and reconciliation.
For the exact location of Frauenkirche, check out the location map to the right.