The reconstruction of the Frauenkirche: the return of Dresden's landmark

The conviction that the Frauenkirche that had been totally destroyed simply had to be rebuilt was shared by many people within Dresden and elsewhere too. But it took 45 years for the realisation of this dream to become a feasible possibility. And, in total, 60 years went by before the Frauenkirche in all its baroque beauty could reopen its doors to the world. 

The motive of the reconstruction: Building bridges – living reconciliation

First endeavours

The wish to rebuild the Frauenkirche existed since the day of its collapse. After the end of WWII, however, neither the Church in the State of Saxony nor the city of Dresden had the funds, let alone technical or personnel resources to launch the rebuilding project on their own. Nevertheless, the Church in the State of Saxony and the State Office of Monument Preservation favoured the rebuilding scheme.

As eary as one year after the end of WWII, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the State of Saxony launched a donation campaign. The State Office of Monument Preservation carried out first investigations towards a potential archaeological reconstruction based on as-built documentation drawn up in the course of restoration work during WWII. However, the political conditions in the then GDR did no permit continuation of the commenced work. Several times there was even the threat of complete clearing of the ruin. It was only in the late 1980s that renowned personalities came out for rebuilding the Frauenkirche and started to collect donations.

Citizen's movement

The peaceful revolution in 1989 and the Re-unification of Germany in 1990 brought about change also for Dresden’s Frauenkirche. In November 1989, committed Dresdners founded a citizen action group for rebuilding the Dresden Frauenkirche and on 13 February 1990 published an ‘Appeal from Dresden’.   

In this open letter, the 22 undersigned emphasised their will to venture rebuilding the Dresden Frauenkirche after 45 years. The promotional group with initially 14 members eventually developed into a promotional society whose radiation reached all spheres of society. Promotional groups and circles of friends formed both across Germany and abroad, people from all parts of Germany and from many countries encouraged and supporting the rebuilding idea.   

In March 1991, the synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the State of Saxony resolved to join the Foundation for Rebuilding the Dresden Frauenkirche to be formed. In February 1992, the state capital of Dresden resolved to support the rebuilding project with funding and ideas.

Guiding principles

The reconstruction work was essentially based on three guiding principles:

  1. George Bähr’s Frauenkirche should be rebuilt using its original structural substance to the largest extent possible in accordance with the original construction plans. This should be done
  2. with the aid of modern technology as well as the theories and methods of structural engineering and physics valid today, while
  3. giving due consideration to all the requirements resulting from a vibrant usage of the building in the 21st century.   

The use of the building’s original substance to as large an extent as possible will make the fate of the destruction of the rebuilt Frauenkirche visibly evident for many years to come. The dark colouring of the old stones and the dimensional differences in the joint areas between the new and old masonry resemble the scars of healed wounds. In this way, the Frauenkirche will testify to the history of its destruction in the future too. At the same time, however, it is testimony to the overcoming of enmity and a sign of hope and reconciliation. 

Technological challenges

Statics

To begin with, building plans had to be drawn up as a basis for a true to original rebuilding of the Frauenkirche. The aim was to rediscover the church's geometry that was lost with its destruction, to transfer this into building plans and to improve the bearing structure where necessary.  

Fortunately, a number of sources existed to assist in this work. Archives still contained historical plans and horizontal projections that could be evaluated. Restoration work in the 19th and 20th century had also been documented in the form of site measurements and photos. In 1993, photogrammetric pictures were taken of the ruin to reconstruct the spatiality and three-dimensional shape of the Frauenkirche. This technique was also employed in a different way for the reconstruction of the dome geometry, where historic photos were used due to the lack of old plans. Finally the ruin itself together with the large structural parts and individual pieces that could be recovered proved a great source of information.  

An initial three-dimensional model was created based on the recovered data using the latest computer technology. This was a real challenge, not least due to the baroque architecture with its multiple curved surfaces. But no matter how indispensable the computer was as a working tool, it could not replace the creativity of the architects and engineers. Their skills were in great demand with regard to planning and calculating the stability and structural safety.   

As a result, the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche closely followed the traditional and meticulously reconstructed bearing structures, but corrected former shortcomings in a number of places. For example, various workmanship quality levels were defined for the masonry, a tension ring of steel was integrated with special anchors at the base of the inner dome and the number of ties (steel rings too) which help keep the dome together was increased. The galleries  are no longer borne by timber beams but steel girders (as had already been installed during the restoration in the 1930s) instead. Furthermore, the connection between the gallery girders and the masonry was improved.

Sandstone

Sandstone is the building material used for the Frauenkirche and many other buildings in Dresden and its surroundings. This material was so popular because it is very strong, easy to work and available locally, among other things. Last but not least, it is also an optically attractive building material.   

The sandstone for Bähr’s Frauenkirche as well as the rebuilt church comes from the Posta quarries in the Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains) near Dresden. Whereas mining the sandstone was very hard work in the 18th century, the latest technical equipment is a great help today. Stone blocks are now either blast in a controlled way or cut using a high-pressure water jet. Computers help cut the blocks and contours precisely, though they cannot fully replace the stonemasons, who are still needed to modify and finish the ashlars.  

In Bähr's time, the sandstone was brought to the Dresden Neumarkt by boat. The quarry and the church to be built were both located near the river Elbe and it stood to reason that this means of transport be used. Unlike 200 years ago, when the broken stones were mostly hewn on site, the raw material nowadays is processed in workshops and delivered in prefabricated blocks by overland routes only.

Masonry

Anyone who played with building blocks knows the technique: the blocks have to be offset to build a stable structure. This is also true for a real building site. The building workers know just how to bond the stones in each individual place to create a bearing structure from the building plan. In addition the joint thickness and the mortar quality must be defined and complied with. In the Frauenkirche this was particularly difficult on the piers, the dome and other curved areas as well as where old and new stones were joined.  

The ashlars were first laid on small spacer plates of lead to produce uniform joints. These plates were exactly the same height as the specified joint, i.e. normally 6 mm. A gap was thus created between the lower and upper rows of stones which was filled with liquid mortar. A special ‘pouring mortar for thin joints’ was developed for this purpose. To prevent the mortar from escaping at the other end, this was sealed with hemp rope. The rope was removed after the mortar had set and the joint then closed with joint mortar.  

Special attention was paid to the eight inner piers. Bähr knew that these piers were of paramount importance for his bearing concept. But he had to estimate the flow of forces intuitively in the absence of scientific findings. Considering these prerequisites, his assumptions were remarkably true but not absolutely accurate. The flow of forces partially deviated from his predictions. Furthermore, the methods for testing materials were not nearly as sophisticated as those of today so that less suitable sandstone blockswere also used. Finally, the blocks could not be laid in Bähr's time with today's precision. This unfortunately led to severe building damage which became apparent through cracks in the piers, for example.   

These mistakes had to be avoided in the rebuilding project. Complicated calculations with regard to the bearing concept were carried out to correct the flow of loads in bearing structure planning. Only high quality sandstone ashlars whose strength had been tested and whose dimensions had to be within a tolerance of not more than 1.5 mm (!) were used for the piers. The pier base planes were enlarged and fewer (but bigger) individual ashlars were used per layer to reduce the number of joints. Finally, a very close eye was kept on compliance with the joint thickness and mortar quality so that the bearing capacity of the piers' stone work could be doubled as a result. 

Surveying

Surveying is an indispensable part of each building project, both then and now. Exact controls are absolutely necessary when planning and implementing the project as well as when checking the quality. Today's master builders, however, benefit from the most up-to-date measuring methods and means.

The Frauenkirche's precise building plot had to be defined in the same way as each building owner stakes out the area where their building will be erected. However, this was done not only horizontally but also vertically. A fixed point network was defined in the plane. The floor area was divided into grid squares which facilitated subsequent orientation and assignment. This allowed a precise description of the ruin parts and an exact specification of where the main axes of the Frauenkirche had to run. A so-called altitude point network was defined in the vertical so that invariable altitude points could also be defined.  

It was now possible to check whether the structural parts were in the right position and altitude and whether the subsoil or the masonry itself would deform with an increasing load, for example, just like in a three-dimensional system of coordinates. Continuous variance comparison ensured the necessary precision and avoided extraordinary tensions in the structure.  Custom-developed computer programs were used for permanent surveying. These allowed three-dimensional representations: all structural parts could thus be mapped spatially and their positions in the structure could be predefined and subsequently checked.

Canopy

A solution had to be found to enclose the building site so that it was independent of the weather. This helped minimize the influence of the weather on the exposed sandstone work during construction and comply with the special requirements on stone work quality. The roofing structure also had to ensure a transport of materials via cranes – after all, blocks weighing up to 5 tonnes had to be moved.  There were no archetypes for a building site of this size. What's more, it quickly became clear that it would take too much time to dismantle and reassemble the construction to raise it to the required heights. A construction was thus developed which could be raised hydraulically.  

After the erection of the canopy in June 1996, it was raised five times and retrofitted twice to adjust it to the progress of the building work. The canopy was raised for the first time from its initial height of 12.50 m to 23 m in August 1997. A year later it was lifted to 33.50 m and then to 44 m for the last time in May 2000. The nave, inner dome, first part of the tambour cylinder, dome batter and lower part of the staircase turrets could be rebuilt with the canopy in this position.  

A new bearing construction was erected on the dome batter for rebuilding the dome between January and March 2002. From there the canopy was raised to 57 m in April. The fourth hydraulic lifting operation took place in November 2002 before the canopy construction was retrofitted to complete the neck of the lantern and the lantern itself. The canopy that meanwhile covered only a small part of the dome was erected at a height of 76 m in July 2003 before it reached its highest position of 83 m in November of the same year.  

Scaffolding

A variety of different types of scaffolding were needed during the restoration of the Frauenkirche. On the one hand, they gave building workers access to higher building sections and on the other they temporarily bore parts of the building under construction. Special solutions which always required a proof of stability repeatedly had to be developed for both types of scaffolding due to the scale of the building project.  

Manufacturing the falsework to support structural parts proved a particular challenge for the masters and carpenters. So-called laggings had to be designed for the many arches and vaults. They were built in accordance with the precepts of traditional craftsmanship. The shapes that had to be produced were often very complex and featured multiple curves. The laggings for the arches between the piers and for the inner and main dome were particularly demanding.  

An almost inconceivable number of scaffold poles was required. The wooden flooring boards for the outer scaffoldings up to the main cornice (i.e. up to below the dome batter) alone filled 12 trailers. 20,000 connecting pieces were needed to join the individual poles of the support and bearing structures of the main dome lagging.

Rebuilding Chronicle

1992: The preparation works begin

On 20th February 1992, the Dresden city council consented to the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche. The approval plans were submitted to the surveyor’s office on 21st July 1992. The ‘Frauenkirche Foundation Dresden e.V.’ actually started its work on 1st October 1992.   

The scaffolding that had been erected in the GDR era to secure the north-west corner tower was used to plot the outer façade. At the same time building activities began to prevent the loss of further stones. 

The Architekten- und Ingenieurgemeinschaft GmbH IPRO Dresden was commissioned with the overall planning of the rebuilding project, except for the civil engineering services. These have been placed under the responsibility of the Ingenieurgemeinschaft Dr. Jäger / Prof. Wenzel for the whole project. Prof. Jörg Peter was appointed stress analysis engineer.

1993: The archaeological rubble clearing

Work began on clearing and sifting through the rubble according to archaeological principles on 4th January 1993 with the intention of using as many original stones as possible to rebuild the Frauenkirche. The mound of rubble was initially divided into grid squares to allow a better orientation and to document the actual condition. Each find was marked and numbered before being carefully taken away. All data such as dimensions, finding place, a brief description of the find with a sketch and neighbouring finds were subsequently used for preliminary identification. The digital records of the finds were evaluated by photogrammetry to enable later revision and correction. 

The 22,000 m³ mound of rubble was cleared in only 17 months. 8,390 façade stones and interior wall and ceiling stones as well as 91,500 back-up blocks could be saved. A lot of other objects were documented in addition to the stone finds. It was certainly a very happy day when the pinnacle cross and its boss were unexpectedly found on 1st June 1993, even though they were greatly damaged.

1994: The reconstruction begins

The actual rebuilding work began when the first stone was laid after all the rubble had been cleared according to archaeological principles. The representatives of the foundation, the Bishop of the Protestant Church of Saxony Volker Kreß, the Minister-President of the Free State of Saxony Prof. Kurt Biedenkopf and the Lord-Mayor of Dresden Dr. Herbert Wagner were present at this ceremony on 27th May 1994. 

A cassette was placed behind the first stone to be laid - an old stone as the bottom stone of the right doorjamb at entrance A. The foundation stone was not laid during this ceremony because it still lies in its place in the foundation of the choir where it was laid on 26th August 1726.   

Work then began on rebuilding a section of the south-east wall between the choir and entrance A. Technologies and mortar mixes were tested and varied and a number of important insights could be gained.

1995: A new annex is being errected

The erection of the outer structure was the most important task in 1995. Covering an area of 1,300 m², the new structure houses the functional rooms required to meet the needs of contemporary usage such as cloakrooms for visitors, sanitary facilities, and dressing-rooms for artists, lounges, service rooms for ventilation, energy supply and emergency power generation as well as a transformer substation. The reinforced concrete structure that was designed as a ‘white tank’ encircles the east side of the church in a ‘U’-shape and nestles against George Bähr's foundations leaving just a settlement joint. The masonry of the foundation could be inspected and stabilized at the same time.  

Another essential task was the reconstruction of the historic basements. The original historic structure was partly dismantled and rebuilt so that is was strong enough to bear the new building. Existing masonry was grouted, cracks were bridged through spikes, large compound units braced with anchors. Exposed wall surfaces that had been heavily damaged by the fire were repaired. A reinforced concrete floor and ducts for the ventilation and heating systems as well as for laying the cables were placed in the main basement. Furthermore, a damp course was installed. All preparatory work necessary for building the vault was now finished.   

Another trial section was erected at entrance C in 1995. A canopy had been built as protection against sun and rain. The use of a tower slewing crane in connection with the first trial lot did not work out well. A better solution thus had to be found for laying work. An overhead travelling crane with trolley proved to be a good alternative. Nevertheless, the transport process still took too much time. Further improvements were however made.

1996: The first entrance portal is completed

Trial lot 1 (which was in fact the second one) was completed in March 1996. The first keystone was positioned, the first entrance portal – portal C – was complete. For the first time it was possible to imagine the extent of work to come. A basis for all future tasks had been laid very quickly without overstepping the budget and in a quality that had not been thought possible.  

The keystone of the main vault could be positioned on 23rd May 1996. But numerous difficulties had to be overcome beforehand. Ashlars that were true works of art had to be replaced or included, particularly in the impost and crossing gallery sections. No planes were parallel and there were no right angles here. Most of the exposed surfaces were three-dimensionally curved. The stones were exclusively hewn on site and most required a lot of reworking. Furthermore, the outer part of the main basement for the west barrel vault, which was three metres wide and had not collapsed, had to be included. Only then it was possible to continue with the normal bond. Three basic forms of prefabricated vault blocks were laid on a falsework using the Gothic type of bond (two stretchers, one header in alternation).   

It was a memorable event when the basement vaults of the Frauenkirche were consecrated as the Lower Church by the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony Volker Kreß on 26th August 1996. The massive contemporary black altar stone erected in the centre of the Lower Church is impressive and open to various interpretations. Since its consecration, hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in religious services and guided tours, attended concerts, lectures etc.   

1997: The canopy is lifted for the first time

The completion of construction lot 2 was scheduled for 11th April 1997. Work could be finished on time with the laying of the window sill block above entrance G. Approximately 2,100 m³ of sandstone had been placed. The outer walls had reached a height of 8.1 m. It was planned to erect the outer stonework up to a height of 16.4 m during the next construction stage, lot 3. A total of 2,700 m³ of sandstone had to be placed or laid, approximately 270 t of steel structures for the galleries erected, ties inserted, the lift shaft in staircase tower G built and all supply lines led from the central control rooms in the outer structure to the ground floor of the church building.  

The canopy was raised for the first time by 10.5 m between 6th to 8th August 1997. This was preceded by a lot of careful planning. The task posed more problems than solutions could be found. There was not a single example for lifting such a frail structure as the canopy. However, a solution was found: the load of approximately 270 t was lifted hydraulically in steps of 5 cm to a height of 24.5 m. This technique was further improved during later lifting processes.  

The construction of the inner piers that began on 15th July 1997 was also one of the most outstanding pieces of work. Each of the eight slender piers has to carry a load of approximately 1,800 t. Great demands were thus placed on the material, manufacture and assembly. Because of its superior quality, only sandstone from the so-called ‘white bank’ of the Wehlen quarry was used for the inner piers.

1998: The church is rising

In 1998 the canopy had to be raised once again to accommodate the growing structure. Relying on the experience gained during the first lifting process and thanks to technical and organisational improvements, the third canopy position was reached at a height of approximately 35 m on 23rd July 1998 after a three-day lifting process. The canopy now also covered both of the standing parts of the ruin, the north-west corner tower and the choir, for the first time. Construction work could be continued after the canopy had been raised. 

The piers were erected up to the position from where the arches spring (18.37 m). and work began on laying the jamb arches of the main church windows (20.26 m). The outer stonework, the spar-type frames, the staircases and the inner stonework reached the height of the window sills. The last arches between piers and spar-type frames were built and ties inserted.  

The last pieces of rubble from the west gable were removed from in front of main Entrance D. The Advisory Board had previously decided to include this west gable in the archaeological rebuilding efforts. The three lower layers of this section could be placed in the same year. They already gave an impression of the effect that such a big compound unit will have amidst the new stones.

1999: The completion of the piers

When construction lot 3 was completed on 31st March 1999, the outer walls, spar-type frames and staircases had reached a height of 24.30 m. The steel structure for the five galleries had been erected and the piers built to 18.37 m. The Frauenkirche foundation noted that thanks to the great commitment of all people involved, construction work was progressing much faster than scheduled (completion scheduled for the end of 1999).   

The first stage of construction lot 4 began with scaffolding and carpentry work. A roofed drawing floor was mounted in front of the west side where the lagging for the arches between the piers was assembled.  

When the piers had reached a height of 21.40 m, work began on the arches between the piers and the arches to the spar-type frames. Four arches spring from each of the piers. The work was literally ‘cut out’ for the stone planners. The height of the layers, joint covers and geometrical form of the stone had to harmonise. Spatial representation with the computer was a great help. The laggings for the arches which the carpenters created were true works of art. One arch lagging set up on steel girders between the piers was curved in itself because it adjoined conically diverging lines of the piers.   

The building did not grow as fast in this and the next year since the amounts of sandstone in cubic meters increased per running metre and complicated laggings had to carry the newly-placed arches and vaults.

2000: The outer walls reach a hight of 28 Metres

The most important day of the year 2000 was without doubt the 13th February when the new pinnacle cross was handed over by his Royal Highness the Duke of Kent on the occasion of the 55th anniversary of the destruction of Dresden. This present was financed through British donations and made by British hands.   

Work on the façade continued in 2000. The main cornice, starting at 24.3 m and ending at 26.4 m, with its triangular gables above the main entrances and the round arches in the area of the corner towers was placed. The five attic layers above the main cornice followed. The outer wall had now reached a height of approximately 28.3 m.

The masonry back-up was laid in all sections up to the same height.  The carpenters built laggings for the vaults between the inner piers and the outer walls. These form the upper termination of the church room. The small brick groin vaults above the choir galleries were built first. The caisson vaults in the area of entrances B, D and F then followed. This work could only be carried out after the projecting arches above the oval windows behind the triangular gables had been finished.   

The lower cornice was completed as a basis or foundation as it were for the inner dome above the church room. The stonework of the inner dome began in the same year.   

The canopy was raised for a third time between 8th to 11th May 2000. A height of approximately 45 m had now been reached.

2001: The completion of the inner dome

By Spring 2001, work on the stone structure had progressed to such an extent that the geometrical separation of the individual building parts was clearly visible from the scaffolding level below the canopy: The inner dome above the church room separates from the stonework ring that will carry the main dome and rises towards the upper compression ring. The stonework ring, on the other hand, rises vertically and will form the outer façade with the first layer of the tambour cornice ring at a height of 37.5 m. Alongside this the staircase towers rise to the heavens like spires, the only difference being there are four of them. 

After months of working in two shifts, the last stone of the upper compression ring could be placed on 29th July 2001. The inner dome with its circular 6 m opening was thereby completed as the connection between church room and main dome room. This beautiful part of the building is a perfect piece of sandstone work and separates into load-bearing ribs and intermediate stonework in the upper section, which unfortunately will not be visible later on. The underside will be plastered and the top will be covered by an inserted ceiling. All that will remain visible are the ashlars of the upper and lower compression ring.  

It took a lot of technical finesse to return the ‘butterfly’ to its original place. This big compound of original stones had been lying on the north side since the beginning of the rebuilding process, rotated by 180° just as it had been on the mound of rubble. The curved projections of the staircase spire made it look like a butterfly. After restoration, this big part 35 was lifted on top of the staircase tower G on 10th August 2001.  

The concave dome batter also posed a few problems. It gives the dome its unique bell shape and is thus the point where the geometrical form of the square changes into a circle. This section had suffered repeated damage due to penetrating rain water. The penetrating water thus had to be diverted into ducts covered by plates on the main cornice in future. The cover plates of the dome batter thus had to be laid on masonry dowels. A spray seal was applied before assembly that channels off any water that penetrates through the cover plates.

2002: The building rises to more than 50 Metres

The big roof dormers were built, the staircase towers were raised to a height of approximately 43 m and work on the ‘stone bell’ was continued after laying the last cover plate and completing the dome batter in February 2002. The big dormer windows of the dome were reached in Autumn. The main dome started to deviate from the perpendicular and incline inwards there. Two of the main dome's six tension rings were installed. The first round of the ramp between the inner and outer shell of the dome leading up to the platform under the lantern was completed. The stone construction reached a height of approximately 51 m at the end of the year.  

In 2002 the canopy had to be raised twice to provide enough space for the quickly growing church building. The canopy was first raised from 45 to 57 m on 24th / 25th April. It had been shortened beforehand and could now be laid on steel supports anchored in the main cornice. This meant that the scaffolding in front of the façade was not required any more and could be dismantled. The 12th September was a great day: The Frauenkirche shed its covers on the south, west and north side and proudly presented a view of its façade up to a height of approximately 38 m. The canopy was raised for the sixth time on 5th / 6th November to reach its final height of 68 m with position 6.   

The flood catastrophe in August also took its toll in the Frauenkirche. Deadlines and schedules were jeopardised. The groundwater rose steadily and also penetrated the Lower Church. It was only thanks to help from many sides, and particularly from Technisches Hilfswerk Eisenach (disaster control team), that extensive damage to the Frauenkirche could be prevented.  

A mock-up section was created in the interior of the church building over the entire height of a pier and the adjoining areas to get an impression of the future interior design and fixtures. The most diverse trades worked together in a minimum of space. The decorative mock-up was particularly important for finally determining the colour schemes and finishes. Pier F and the adjoining parapet elements of the gallery were decorated by different companies. Furthermore, the representation of the Apostle John was created on an area of the inner dome above pier F.

2003: Stony and melodious bells

The year 2003 was marked by the completion of the main stone dome. After the stone work on the inner and outer shell and spiral ramp had been finished and the last ties placed in position, the keystone of the compression ring could be laid at a height of 60 m on May 23, 2003. The scaffolding was removed on completion of the laying work for the staircase turrets and jointing work. The main dome that made this church so famous was now visible both from inside and outside. The installation of a new canopy was the prerequisite for the construction of the lantern which began on September 1 and reached a height of 77.20 m by Christmas.   

The arrival, consecration and installation of the eight bells, only one of which originally came from the old Frauenkirche, were another outstanding event in this year. Many people will never forget the day at the beginning of May when the bells were received with a procession through the city, welcomed and consecrated. The peal of bells rang out for the first time on the eve of Whitsun (June 7). 40,000 people gathered in the streets and squares around the Frauenkirche to listen.  

The pace and complexity of the work in the church's interior had clearly increased. A wide variety of trades worked with each other and in succession. Stone masons and layers were laying sandstone steps and plates. Metal workers were building stairs, ladders, gratings, window grilles and handrails. Joiners were building the parapets of the galleries in an unparalleled quality and installing noise-insulation shutters in front of the spire chamber windows. Plasterers were applying undercoats and final coats of plaster to sandstone, wood and dry-wall constructions. Dry construction workers were covering the tension ring, shafts for risers and building single plank walls. Window builders were inserting the glazed steel windows in the dome batter and main dome areas. Stucco workers were attaching decorations to the capitals of the inner piers, parapets of the galleries and inner dome. Painters had begun to decorate the interior. Restorers were working on the altar. The lateral arcatures were laid to the sacristy, baptistery and confessional boxes in the choir. Electricians were completing their lighting, power supply, measuring and control installations. Heating and ventilation fitters were preparing the interim winter heating system together with the final installation. Sanitary fitters were installing supply and return lines for toilet and kitchen areas and fire extinguishing equipment.

2004: The outer contour is restored through the erection of the cupola

Interior building work continued at a high pace. The glazing was being fitted beside the work that had already begun and joiners were building stairs, flooring, pews as well as inner doors and windows. The colourful interior decorations were going smoothly. A custom-built rotary platform was used for the architectural paintings in the individual sections of the inner dome. The Dresden painter Christoph Wetzel interpreted the works of Giovanni-Battista Grones under difficult building site conditions. The four evangelists and the Christian virtues of belief, love, hope and mercy proclaim God's word and will. Another highlight of the reconstruction was the completion of the filigree wood carvings and the colourful decoration of the organ gallery and organ front in the inner church room.  

The stone structure of the Frauenkirche was completed by laying the stones of the lantern cornice at a height of 78 m on April 13, 2004. Work then concentrated on preparing the attachment of the lantern roof with its spire cross. The roof framework had been prefabricated by the apprentice training centre of Berufsförderungswerk Bau Sachsen e.V., assembled and then clad in metal on the building site. The cupola and spire cross were erected with a special crane in the course of a church service on June 22, 2004. Around 60,000 people on the spot and 8 million viewers in front of their TV’s witnessed and celebrated the occasion.  

The outer shape of the church building was restored to its original glory through the removal of the final external scaffolding on July 30, 2004. The acceptance certificate for the last contract section was then signed as had already been agreed in the contract dated March 31, 1999.

2005: It is done

Another ten months until the church can be handed over to the public through a solemn consecration on October 30, 2005. All of the building work had to be completed and all technical installations adjusted and tested by this date.  

February 1 was a first highlight. The viewing platform in the lantern was ready and opened to the public. Between 900 and 1,700 visitors enjoy the splendid view over Dresden and the landscape of the Elbe valley every day. Following the concentration on stone work over the past years, attention now turned to the artistic decoration of the interior.

The outstanding workmanship and craftsmanship of painters, restorers, gilders and artists have created a cheerful and harmonious church room which invites visitors to listen to the spoken word and music. The work on the destroyed altar could also be finished after years of discussions on the ‘right’ solution.  Following completion of the paintings on the inner dome by Christoph Wetzel, the rotary platform could be removed and left space for the installation of the pews and organ. Between May and September, the master organ builder Kern from Straßburg installed and intoned the large organ.  

The nave was finally completed on September 20. The photos for the publications on the occasion of the consecration could be now taken.