Zwinger Palace history
Zwinger Palace has an interesting history. The name, “Zwinger”, comes from the German word “bezwingen” which means “to conquer”. This might lead one to think that Zwinger Palace was raised as a symbol of some military victories, but this is not the case.
Palace of Augustus
The founder of Zwinger Palace was Frederick Augustus I, or “Augustus the Strong “, as he was called. He had just returned from a two year journey through Italy and France, just at the moment that the French King – Louis XIV – moved his court to the grand palace of Versailles. When Augustus later was elected King of Poland in 1697, he wanted to celebrate this and something to rival the French King’s grand palace. The result is what you see today; the Zwinger Palace.
The Zwinger Palace is built on the site of the former Dresden fortress. The fact that the fortification was no longer needed at the time and its good location, near the river Elbe, made it a suitable place for the new palace.
Zwinger Palace was designed by the Dresden architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann and built between the years 1710-1728. It was officially inaugurated already in 1719, when the son of Augustus the Strong married the daughter of the Habsburg emperor; the Archduchess Maria Josepha.
It was however not until the completion of the interiors, in 1728, that Zwinger Palace could fully serve it purpose. From year 1728 an onwards, Zwinger Palace arranged tournaments, held exhibitions, housed the library halls and hosted extravagant festivities. The square inside the palace is not called “Festplatz” without a reason.
The palace area was however left open towards the “Semperoper” and the river as a way to leave a door open for future expansions of the Zwinger Palace. Later the plans were changed to a smaller scale. The area was closed between years 1847–1855.
During this time, the construction of the gallery wing now separating the Zwinger from the Semperoper, took place. This part is called the Semper wing, after the man who designed it – Gottfried Semper. Not surprisingly, it was the same man who designed the Opera.
Second World War
During the Second World War, most of the Zwinger Palace was destroyed together with the rest of Dresden during an Allied air raid. One positive thing was that at least the art collection was saved, as it had been evacuated before the bombs fell in 1945.
After the war, the people of Dresden voted to restore Zwinger Palace and bring it back to its glorious days, instead of having the ruins razed to make way for a new kind of architecture.
Why visit Zwinger Palace ?
Of all the beautiful sites in Dresden, many people say Zwinger Palace is a must-see. When looking at the magnificent palace, it’s easy to understand why.
A stunning site
When entering the courtyard of Zwinger Palace, many people say it makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into a movie set or traveled back in time some 200 years. The architectural style of Zwinger Palace is typical baroque and it is one of the finest examples of late baroque architecture in Germany and in the whole world. It is truly considered a masterpiece in its class.
Today, the Zwinger Palace is visited by thousands of tourists who come to see the lovely gardens with its numerous fountains, the plethora of sculptures and the amazing architecture of the palace itself. There is however more to the palace than just its wonderful outside.
Zwinger Palace is home to the excellent “Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister”, meaning “the Old Masters Picture Gallery”. It contains paintings of Rubens, Canaletto, Raphael and many others. Inside the palace you can also find the “Rüstkammer”, the Armory, with a fine collection of weapons and armor, mostly dating from the 16th and 17th century. The palace also holds a collection of Meissen porcelain, rare clocks and other rare scientific instruments.
Zwinger Palace enjoys widespread fame as a baroque masterpiece and is a legacy of Dresden’s distinguished history as a royal seat. Whether or not Augustus managed to beat the French King Louis XIV or not, when it comes to the most-fancy-palace contest, is hard to say. One thing is however certain; no one visits the Zwinger Palace and remains untouched by its beauty.
Zwinger Palace location
Zwinger Palace is located in Dresden, Germany. The palace is situated between the Theaterplatz, Ostra-Allee and Sophienstrasse, close to the banks of the river Elbe. For the exact location of Zwinger Palace, check out the location map to the right.