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November 23, 2005

A Church without Parish

On October 30, 2005 the reconstructed Frauenkirche, the most famous church of Dresden, was consecrated. Built in the 18th century the church has always been a prominent part or the Dresden "skyline". It's impressive Italian style architecture contributed to Dresden being also known as "Elbflorenz" (Florence on the river Elbe).

During the heavy bombardment of Dresden in the last days of WWII the church was totally devastated and reduced to a pile of rubble, 13 m high. After the war the SED regime of the German Democratic Republic wanted to remove the remains no doubt to erect an architectural monstrosity there. But people became very inventive about protecting the ruins, planting a hedge of roses around it to make it less noticeable. In 1966 the ruins were even proclaimed an antifascistic memorial against the war.

From 1982 onwards people would congregate at the ruins each Februar 13, the day commemmorating the devastation of Dresden. The ruins became a place and a symbol for the peace and civic rights movements in the German Democratic Republic. At last reunification between East and West Germany took place in 1990. And a plan was born to reconstruct the Frauenkirche.

Under the motto "Brücken bauen - Versöhnung leben" (Building bridges - living reconciliation) the impossible was achieved. More than a 100 million Euros were collected from all over the world. The former enemies from Britain and the United States generously contributed to this sum. British people also paid for the golden cross on the roof. One of the goldsmiths involved in making the cross is a son of one of the pilots who bombed Dresden 60 years ago - a true sign of reconciliation to me.

One of the many interesting things about the reconstruction ist that the remaining stones from the old building were carefully catalogued and fitted into the new church in their appropriate places. Experts from the University of Dresden developed a new kind of mortar which made it possible to connect new stones with old stones. The result is a stunning sight.
It took eleven years to reconstruct the building. Over the years the project gathered a lot of momentum. Each Christmas a special service was held outside in front of the growing building and over the years more and more people were attending. In the end thousands were coming.

Now that it is finished the Frauenkirche is a magnificent sight - from outside as well as from inside. A Baroque Riot, as the Monk would say, with soaring heights. Curiously enough, the famous church is now a church without a parish. It will doubtlessly be used for the occasional service and also for concerts, lectures etc. But now that all the excitement and the involvement of the media is slowly dying down it remains to be seen whether the Frauenkirche will find its proper and permanent place in future Dresden.

Posted by Mausi at November 23, 2005 06:21 AM

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