Around 4.5 million visitors in the first two years since the church's reconsecration in 2005 / A major enrichment for musical life in Dresden / Chronology of the reconstruction
On 30th October 2005, Dresden's Frauenkirche was reconsecrated after being rebuilt following its destruction in the Second World War. And already the church is one of Germany's most famous attractions. During the first two years alone, 4.4 million people have visited the Dresden Frauenkirche; 2.7 million visitors have taken advantage of the "Open Church"; 1.15 million have attended services and devotionals in the Frauenkirche; and with 485,000 concert attendances, the Frauenkirche has also assumed a leading role in Dresden's musical life.
Built between 1726 and 1743 according to plans drawn up by the audacious master builder and architect George Bähr, the Frauenkirche is regarded as the most important Protestant church building in Germany. It was one of the great masterpieces of Baroque art and was one of the wonders of European architecture. Following the devastating air-raid on Dresden on 13th February 1945, the church burned out. Two days later its dome collapsed.
From citizens' initiative to worldwide project
The events of autumn 1989 provided a new impulse. Engaged citizens set up an initiative to promote the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche. On 13th February 1990, the 45th anniversary of the destruction of the city, they addressed their "Call from Dresden" to the world. This appeal was the initial spark that developed into the most successful citizens' initiative in Germany in recent times.
The Dresden group rapidly grew into a worldwide movement. As a result, around 100 million out of the 130 million euros that the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche cost were financed by private donations from Germany, Britain, the USA and many other countries.
Rebuilding as an archaeological reconstruction project
The Frauenkirche has been rebuilt in its original historical form. This was possible thanks to the fact that complete and detailed documentation has been preserved. The ruins that had remained standing have been integrated into the reconstructed building. In addition, it was possible to re-use 44 per cent of the original stones. State-of-the-art computer technology was used to restore them to their original positions in the structure.
Craftsmen and artists developed a feel for the building techniques of the Baroque era. Dresden painter Christoph Wetzel, for example, sensitively recreated the painting of the four Evangelists and the four Virtues in the dome, and Vinzenz Wanitschke undertook the reconstruction of the main altar, which depicts Christ on the Mount of Olives. Golden sheaves of corn and bunches of grapes carried by angels symbolise the Eucharist. A halo indicates the Trinity. Above the altar is the new organ constructed in the workshop of Daniel Kern in Strasbourg, which combines the organ-building tradition of Gottfried and Andreas Silbermann with the French Romantic style.
Divine services, concerts and viewings
Even though many people regard the Dresden Frauenkirche primarily as a new attraction, it is first and foremost a place of worship. Divine services take place on Sundays at 11 a.m. (with vocal church music, usually a Bach cantata) and at 6 p.m. (with instrumental church music). On Thursdays at 6 p.m. there is an ecumenical evening prayer meeting in the crypt.
Devotionals and vespers accompanied by organ music and followed by a guided tour of the church are held on Mondays to Saturdays at 12 noon, and on Mondays to Wednesdays and on Fridays at 6 p.m. Admission to these events is free of charge. Donations are welcome.
Every fortnight the Frauenkirche hosts a "Sunday Sacred Music" event at 3 p.m. Accompanied by soloists and instrumentalists, the choir (Kantorei) or chamber choir (Kammerchor) of the Frauenkirche under the baton of Matthias Grünert performs various works, mainly from the Baroque period, such as pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach and Gottfried August Homilius, both of whom performed in the Frauenkirche. On Wednesdays at 8 p.m. the "queen of instruments" can be heard in a series of rotating concerts in the Frauenkirche, the Kreuzkirche (a Jehmlich organ) and the Catholic Cathedral (a Silbermann organ). Admission to each of these two concert series costs 8 euros in advance or 5 euros at the door, including fees.On 1st December 1736 Johann Sebastian Bach gave a much-renowned organ concert in Dresden. It was probably the first concert on the Silbermann organ in the Dresden Frauenkirche, which had just been completed. Bach's organ works as well as his cantatas and oratorios are a permanent feature in the repertoire of the Frauenkirche.
In 2008 and 2009 the oratorios of George Frederick Handel (1685-1759) will also be on the Frauenkirche's programme of events. This is to mark the 250th anniversary of the death of the Baroque composer, who was a native of Halle. Well-known choirs, orchestras, conductors and soloists from all over the world will be performing in the Dresden Frauenkirche, and many of the concerts will be broadcast internationally on radio and TV.
The church is usually open for visits from Monday to Friday between 10 a.m. and 12 noon and from 1 to 6 p.m. Independent guided tours for groups are not permitted. Group tours can, however, be registered with the Foundation on special occasions. Daily between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. visitors whose health and fitness level permits may climb up to the dome and enjoy the wonderful panoramic view over the city of Dresden. This costs 8 euros (concessionary fee 5 euros).
1722 Master Carpenter George Bähr presents initial plans for a new building to replace the old Frauenkirche, which is in a serious state of disrepair.
1726 Approval of the design with four corner towers and a wooden dome. Foundation stone laid in August.
1733 After the death of Augustus the Strong, the Catholic Elector Augustus III donates 28,366 Talers for continuation of the building work on the Protestant place of worship. Bähr is permitted to build the dome in stone.
1738 Continuation of work on the church after Bähr’s death.
1743 Completion of the building work by Master Masons Gottfried Fehre and Johann Georg Schmidt
1760 The Frauenkirche survives bombardment by Prussian cannon. The attacker, Friedrich II of Prussia, comments, “The obstinate mule will just have to stay put.”
1924 Start of the first major restoration work on the Frauenkirche (up to 1930)
1938 Second period of restoration work (up to 1942). The main dome is fitted with a ring girder made of reinforced concrete. The documentation is later an important source for the reconstruction work.
1945 On 15th February, two days after the bombing of Dresden, the burned out dome collapses.
1946 The “Grand Rebuilding Plan for Dresden” envisages the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche.
1962 After initial salvage work in 1948, the ruin is threatened with clearance, but lack of money prevents this.
1966 The city council decides to preserve the ruin as a monument. Church services held next to the ruins of the Frauenkirche gain greater political importance in 1989.
1990 On 12th February a citizens’ movement publishes the “Call from Dresden” and appeals to the public for support to rebuild the Frauenkirche
1991 On 18th March, the synod of the Protestant Church in Saxony votes with a clear majority in favour of rebuilding the Frauenkirche. Dresden city council grants its consent in 1992.
1993 Start of clearance work. In October parts of the altar are found in an unexpectedly good condition.
1994 On 27th May, Lord Mayor of Dresden Herbert Wagner grants building permission for the reconstruction work, which begins the same day. The building director is Eberhard Burger.
1995 The Dresdner Bank begins issuing its “Donation Certificates”
1996 Consecration of the crypt in August
1998 Completion of the 18.37 metre high control pillar inside the church
1999 The church is 24 metres high. Decision to consecrate the church in 2005, one year earlier than originally planned.
2000 The Duke of Kent hands over the tower cross donated by Britain’s “Dresden Trust”. The son of a British bomber pilot, Alan Smith, was involved in its production. The Queen also makes a donation towards the cross, which she presents to Dresden in an official ceremony.
2001 In June the interior dome is completed.
2002 On 13th May work begins on the exterior dome, the 40 metre high “Stone Bell”.
2003 After a dispute about the future organ for the Frauenkirche, the board of the Foundation decide on a modern organ “in the spirit of Gottfried Silbermann“. The commission is won by the Kern company from Strasbourg. In July the last stone is set in the dome, and in September the scaffolding is removed.
2004 The internal scaffolding is removed. On 13th April the last stone out of a total of about 360,000 is set at a height of 79 m. On 22nd July the setting of the cupola and cross on the top completes the external building work. At the end of the year the dome is to be opened as a viewing platform for tourists.
2005 Completion of the interior and the organ. On Sunday 30th October, the day before Reformation Day, the church is consecrated.
Further information on the Frauenkirche and press contact
Detailed information is available on the official website:
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