Dresden is home to the Frauenkirche (Chruch of Our Lady). The original name “Unserer Lieben Frauen“ (Our beloved ladies) got shortened over the years to become the term that is used today: Frauenkirche. It is one of the most visited sights in Dresden.
The Frauenkirche from 1743
On the Neumarkt in Dresden stands a large monumental church in the Baroque style, the Frauenkirche. It was originally designed by George Bähr and completed in 1743.
Bähr had initially planned to build a wooden dome, which was to be clad in copper. With the support of Augustus the Strong, the plans were changed quite expensively. And so the sacred building has a very large stone church dome.
This reminded August of the domed church of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice. However, Bähr, who had never been abroad, had no experience in building a stone dome. He died before the dome could be built and his successor completed the construction.
The church itself had an almost square floor plan with a semicircular choir. In front of the choir was a curved staircase with a reading desk and behind it a monumental baroque altar. The acoustics must not have been so good, because it was later decided to add a second pulpit.
Bähr’s lack of knowledge became noticeable in the next decades in various building defects and so renovation work had to be carried out regularly.
History of the Frauenkirche after the Second World War
During the air raids in the Second World War, the church was completely destroyed. Not only the aerial bombs, but above all a firestorm that passed through Dresden’s city centre at up to 1200 degrees Celsius was the main cause of the destruction. The interior, which was almost entirely made of wood, provided additional breeding ground for the flames.
Long after the attack, in which all the houses on Neumarkt fell victim to the flames, the Frauenkirche was still burning. Eventually, the last remnants of the walls could no longer support the massive vaulted structure and collapsed. What remained was a huge mountain of rubble where the beautiful church had once stood. Amazingly, the altar “survived” the total destruction. Dripping tin from the melting organ and some wooden debris preserved it.
After the end of the Second World War, the then state conservator had the first investigations carried out for the reconstruction. Numerous stones were secured and initially stored. Later, some of them were used to rebuild the Brühl Terrace, while other stones were returned to the rubble pile of the church.
The rubble was secured with sheet metal and the remains of the church were left as a memorial for over 40 years. Initiatives to rebuild the church with funds from the West were rejected by the regional synod of the Saxon regional church.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, ideas for the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche began to emerge again and plans were developed as to how this could best be realised. An association was founded to collect donations. However, there were not only supporters but also critics of the idea of giving Dresden back its Frauenkirche.
It remained in ruins until 1994. Then work began on rebuilding the church. Stone by stone, the rubble was removed, the remaining catacombs were measured and the exact locations of many of the stones in the walls were determined using the latest computer technology. If you look at the Frauenkirche today, you will discover over 3,500 darker stones that have found their original position in the rebuilt church.
By 2005, the church had been completely rebuilt, financed by donations from all over the world. The costs amounted to about 180 million euros, 115 million euros alone were raised through donations.
On 30 October 2005, the Frauenkirche was festively inaugurated with a consecration service and is now regarded as a symbol of reconciliation.
Visiting the Frauenkirche
Today, the Frauenkirche can be visited. During Open Church times, admission is free of charge. Long queues often form at the entrance with the D above the door.
Taking photos inside the church is actually forbidden. When we visited the Frauenkirche, there was not one visitor who respected the ban, and even the church staff did not try to prevent pictures being taken. I can understand why people ask not to take pictures and therefore we will not show any pictures of the nave here.
However, I have found a panoramic picture.
Nevertheless, I would like to encourage you to visit this truly impressive building. Whether alone or with a guided tour, it is really worth it.
I found it impressive that the old altar, which had “survived” the fire of the Frauenkirche, stands in the rebuilt church. With all its damage, it stands in the beautiful Dresden Baroque church.
For me, the visit once again brought me full circle. Heinrich Schütz’s grave is in the Dresden Frauenkirche. We had studied his music during a guided tour of the Heinrich Schütz House in Weißenfels.
Climbing the dome
Our next destination during the tour of the Frauenkirche was the ascent to the dome. Here, too, you have to stand at the entrance G for a while before you can make your way up.
The Frauenkirche is over 90 metres high and the dome starts at about 40 metres. What you can’t see from below, there are actually two domes – an outer stone dome with an external diameter of over 26 metres and a thinner inner dome behind it. Between the two domes runs a so-called “donkey walk”, which leads up to the lantern in two and a half turns with a 14% incline. During construction, this path was used to transport the stones upwards with carts, and today it is used to climb up the dome.
However, there is no getting around climbing a total of 127 steps to the top of the dome, and at the very end there is even a steep ladder staircase.
As you follow the path upwards, you can catch a glimpse of the interior dome painting of the Frauenkirche through windows. There were once 8 paintings created by the Italian theatre painter Grone. These were, of course, also destroyed and an attempt was made to reconstruct them at great expense. The painter Christoph Wetzel used numerous archive pictures and tried to achieve as much correspondence as possible with the original by painting murals in other churches.
The visitor platform is just over 67 metres high. The view is really unique. You look out over Dresden and can see along the Elbe. For example, you can see the city hall, the Semper Opera House, the Residence Palace, the Augustus Bridge,…. A flyer that you get before you go up helps you find your way around the city.
For us, a climb that was worth it.
Opening hours church:
Monday – Friday: 10am – 12pm and 1pm – 6pm.
Saturday and Sunday: changing times
Opening hours dome ascent:
March – October
Monday – Saturday: 10 am – 6 pm
Sunday: 12.30 – 18 h
November to February
Monday – Saturday: 10am – 4pm
Sunday: 12.30 – 16 h
Prices ascent of the dome:
Discounts and chargeable tours are available.