Friday, 20 June 2014


On this latest trip to Europe we returned to Dresden after 14 years to discover a very different city from the one we saw then, still under massive reconstruction. The story is known, on the night of 13 to 14 February 1945 the British fire bombed the city. Dresden had no strategic or military value, it was a city of the Arts and was famous because Canaletto had made several paintings of it. It was said to be a jewel of the Renaissance. On that night 45,000 people burned to death and what would become a highly controversial attack by the British, but then war is war.

After the end of WWII, Dresden was part of the German Democratic Republic, its communist government left the old town un-touched and made little effort to erase the devastation of the war.
This was a deliberate policy of Moscow who pulled all the strings in its satellite vassal States like the GDR.

With re-unification in 1989, the Federal Government of Germany started a vast program of re-building not just in Dresden but elsewhere in the former GDR. Luckily, Dresden had a large archive of plans and photos, including the famous Canaletto paintings to draw inspiration on how to re-build its monuments.

We went to Dresden to see the re-built church of our Lady, Der Frauenkirche.  It was rebuilt between 1997 and 2005 with private donations from the Lutheran Community in the world. This church was first built in 1726 by architect George Bahr at the request of the Citizens of Dresden as a protest and in a blunt rebuke to their King August II the Strong, Elector of Saxony (1670-1733) who had become also King of Poland and Duke of Lithuania in 1697 and decided to convert to Catholicism and built by his Palace a Roman Catholic Cathedral. He also had a passageway built above the street so he could go to Mass and avoid angry Dresdeners.   August II was a very great patron of the Arts and his impressive collections today are on display in the Green Room of the Saxon Royal Palace, he also invited to his Court all the great artists of Europe at the time and the brilliance of his Court shines to this day.

 Der Frauenkirche at 93 meter in height, all stone building.

The black stone portion of the church is the only original portion that did not collapse on the morning of 15 February 1945 after the fire bombing of the city.

This large piece of masonry now standing in the street next to the re-built church was once part of the original dome of the cupola. If you look closely you will see the illustration with a small square portion in the dome where it came from originally. It is massive if compared to the boy next to it.

We also visited the Old Green Room and the new Green Room more than 1700 precious objects made of solid gold and silver, rare objects in ivory and others made of precious gems are on display including the only known Green diamond in the world which is mounted with countless white diamonds and gold as the Imperial Order of the Golden Fleece and worn by the King of Saxony and the Emperors of Austria and the Kings of Spain, in fact you may see Felipe VI of Spain wearing this order.

There is so much treasure in the Green Room that we had to make 2 visits on 2 separate days to see it all. Your eyes become tired after a while and you have to exit to give your brain a rest, in order to digest it all.

August II lived in that golden age of Princes and the meticulously re-built Palace is a tribute to the Wettin family of Saxony and the splendour of their Court. All the treasures were safely evacuated at the beginning of the war as a precaution and this is why it all survived. The Green Room also survived because it had solid steel doors which were closed the night of the British air attack.

An interesting fact about the 1114 year old Wettin Royal Family, branches of this Family ruled in Saxony, Poland, Bulgaria, Portugal, Belgium and Great-Britain. Only the Belgium and British branches still retain their thrones today.

Here are some photos of Dresden Altstadt.

 The Church of the Holy Cross where composer and musician Heinrich Schütz (1595-1672) worked for many years. The interior of this church were left bare in the reconstruction, only the altar was kept intact, it gives the church a powerful sobriety and dignity.

 The Royal Palace Tower and other buildings re-built in their original form.

 The main market square with a statue of a ruler of Saxony. We had dinner at the Hotel de Saxe, very good service and a pleasant menu.

 All the buildings in this photo have kept their 18th century look though the interior is modern to serve contemporary needs.

The Albertinum museum and National Art Gallery, named after the ruling branch of the Wettin Royal Family. The glass dome looks very much like a lemon press. 

The Taschenberg Palais built by August II the Strong for his mistress has been faithfully restored into a luxury hotel.

One of my favourite view of Dresden on the embankment by the Elbe River. In the distance the Semper Opera House and the bell tower of the Catholic Church built by August II the Strong. 

 National Gallery housing paintings and sculptures by masters of various ages 

One of the courtyards of the Royal Palace completely restored, it was used for horse riding and training.


  1. The heart rejoices when I see the places my feet have walked during a very special time in my life some years ago. Thanks for the article and the photos Laurent. On a separate tangent, have you had the pleasure of enjoying a succulent piece of Pork Hock flushed down with copious amounts of Radeberger or another local favourite?

  2. It all looks so 'Europe' which means it is lovely. There is not much exquisite architecture where I live, everything being only 50 years old at most.