Landeshauptstadt Dresden - www.dresden.de

https://www.dresden.de/en/05/035/history.php 21.10.2016 13:58:13 Uhr 25.05.2017 03:04:03 Uhr

History

The Dresden Frauenkirche, a masterpiece of European architecture, was a central element of the city centre skyline for over 200 years.

The church was built between 1726 and 1743, under the supervision of architect George Bähr. The devastating bombing raids on Dresden in February 1945, however, were too much for even this impressive construction.

After the war, the scarred remains dominated the atmosphere of the city centre for almost 50 years.

Gothic predecessor of the Frauenkirche

The first »Church of Our Lady« was built as the main church for Dresden in the 11th century. It is thus the oldest place of worship in the city.

For a long time, the small Gothic church still stood outside the actual town walls. It was only after the earliest known expansion of the city in the 16th century that it fell within the city boundaries.

By the beginning of the 18th century the church was already in a rather poor state of repair and was no longer able to meet growing demands and expectations. A new, larger and more modern building was required.

Construction of a new Frauenkirche in the 18th century

In 1722, the Dresden city council passed a resolution which envisaged a new building to replace the increasingly dilapidated Gothic church.

The planning was entrusted to city master carpenter and architect George Bähr. Four years were to pass before the final plans were approved, in 1726. The distinctive feature was to be a central dome over an essentially circular ground plan.

The difficulties this entailed, however, meant that building progress was slow.

The interior of the church was consecrated in 1734, and Johann Sebastian Bach was able to give a recital on the new Silbermann organ two years later. By 1738, the people of Dresden were also able to admire the elegant bell-shaped dome.

But it was not until 1743 that the Baroque church was finally completed - symbolised by the placing of the cross atop the 93-metre-high dome.

Nights of destruction in February 1945

During the night from 13th to 14th February 1945, Dresden was reduced to burning rubble under the bombs of Allied air raids.

Tens of thousands of people lost their lives, and countless unique buildings fell victim to the flames.

Immediately after the inferno, it seemed that the church had been able to defy the devastating attack. But in the early morning of 15th February, the Frauenkirche, too, collapsed - the pillars of the burnt-out nave were no longer able to support the weight of the stone dome.

Admonishing ruins

The collapse transformed practically the whole Frauenkirche into an enormous mound of rubble. Only two wall sections were left standing.The first visions of restoring the Frauenkirche to its former splendour were already expressed by citizens of Dresden in April 1945.Following various investigations and studies, 600 cubic metres of stone were already salvaged, measured and catalogued in 1949.

The new political constellation in Central Europe, however, halted continuation of this work. And so the once monumental church remained a ruin for many decades - as an impressive reminder and unmistakable symbol for the fate of a whole city.

George Bähr (1666-1738)

The architect of the Dresden Frauenkirche was born in Fürstenwalde in the Erzgebirge mountains in 1666. A carpenter by trade, he was appointed city master carpenter of Dresden in 1705.

Several Saxon churches were built under his supervision over the years to follow - but his most famous work remains the Dresden Frauenkirche.

George Bähr was entrusted with the planning for a new church in 1722. In 1730, four years after the actual construction work began, he was already permitted to call himself architect.

Sadly, George Bähr did not live to see the completion of his masterpiece. He died in 1738. He was initially buried on the Johannisfriedhof cemetery in Dresden, but his remains were later transferred to the vaults of the Frauenkirche in 1854.

Following meticulous restoration, his tombstone today once more  takes pride of place in the church crypt.

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