A Landmark Shaping the Cityscape
The Frauenkirche is a unique building. It is considered a symbol of Protesting church building, in which the Protestant understanding of faith and worship finds an architectural implementation. The central building, built in the 18th century, with its soaring design, the striking bell-formed dome, and the crowning stone lantern, was reconstructed true to the original and is now shaping the skyline of Dresden once again.
The Frauenkirche is a sandstone church erected on a comparatively small base area. The master builder George Bähr (1666-1738) opted for a centralised building with an octagonal outline. Square floor plan and an east-facing choir apse. Four corner towers, in which the stairways are located, limit the building at the sides. Thanks to the elegantly curved dome and the lantern above it with the tower cross, which together make up more than two thirds of the total height of the Frauenkirche, the building looks ambitious. The large windows make the stone facade appear less massive and more permeable
While the old Frauenkirche had the dark color typical of patinated sandstone, today's building impresses with its light facade, which is repeatedly interrupted by dark areas. New and old stones were built together so that the history of the Frauenkirche will remain legible for a long time to come. The coexistence of old and new illustrates that the past is always part of the present and that wounds can heal.
The dome of the Frauenkirche is special in several ways. Made entirely of sandstone, it weighs over 12,000 tons. With a height of 24 meters and a diameter of 26 meters, it is considered the largest stone dome north of the Alps. The shape is also unique: the convex curved dome and the concave further course gives the impression of a bell. This impression earned the Frauenkirche its nickname »stone bell«.
Above the dome is the so-called lantern, in which the viewing platform of the Frauenkirche is located. Visitors to the ascent of the dome can look in all four directions from a height of 67 meters. The lantern is crowned by the dome with the new tower cross of the Frauenkirche. Donated and made in the spirit of reconciliation, the replica of the old cross exhibited in the church bears witness to the importance of peaceful coexistence.
Not recognizable as such at first glance, two of the four corner towers of the Frauenkirche house the bells of the church building. Four bells are housed in the southwest tower C, four more bells in the northwest tower E. The staircase that leads up to this tower is, by the way, apart from the altar area the second largest ruin part that once protruded from the rubble. The consistently dark facade heralds this.
The old Frauenkirche had four bells. Three of them were confiscated and melted down during World War II, and one was destroyed in the collapse. Today, eight bells give the Frauenkirche its own distinctive voice. According to old tradition, each bell has a name, a Bible verse and a bell ornament, which is based on both the worship service and the history and significance of the Frauenkirche. One bell, Maria, was already in the service of the former Frauenkirche between 1734 and 1925. In 1998 it came back to Dresden as a memorial bell. The seven other bells were cast anew in 2003: the Isaiah peace bell (2002), the thanksgiving bell Hanna, the baptismal bell Philip, the prayer bell David, the wedding bell Joshua, the city bell Jeremiah and the annunciation bell John.
The clock tower is located on the Neumarkt-side bell tower C. It is a consistent successor to the clock installed in the same place until the collapse of the church. Like its predecessor, it comes from the Meißner company Otto Fischer and is driven by a mechanical clockwork. A historical model was deliberately used, which was previously installed in the Philippuskirche in Lohmen. Three dials based on the historical model visually indicate that all time is in God's hands: With one, two, three or four strokes, the thanks bell Hannah shows the quarter of an hour and the prayer bell David shows the number of hours. A second hour strike was added in tower E so that the wedding bell Joshua can repeat the hour strike.
Main Church Room
In the main room of the Frauenkirche Dresden, closeness and expanse, light and shadow, the visible and the hidden enter into an exciting, yet always harmonious dialogue. Upon entering, the friendly, pastel colors come as a surprise. Daylight illuminates the room thanks to large glass windows. The curved galleries and the vaulted interior dome convey a feeling of security. The gaze strives forward toward the sanctuary and upward along the slender pillars. It is not the heaviness of the sandstone that determines the feeling of space, but an openness, lightness and spirituality that constantly unfolds.
The pulpit - the often elevated place for the sermon - of the Frauenkirche is, unlike in many churches, positioned in the center. It protrudes into the nave like the bow of a ship. The rows of seats and galleries surround it, so that all listeners are directed toward this central place for the proclamation of the word.
It has not been conclusively determined what kind of baptismal font originally existed in the Frauenkirche. It is certain, however, that the baptismal font, which had been in use since the 19th century, was almost completely destroyed when the church collapsed in 1945. During the reconstruction it was decided against a reconstruction. In the search for a baptismal font from Bähr's time, the baptismal font of the old Freiberg Nikolai Church, created by sculptor Johann Gottfried Stecher and consecrated in 1754, was found in the Freiberg Mining Museum. With the exception of the elaborately designed lid, the stone, which has no figurative decoration, is rather simple and has adorned the chancel of the Frauenkirche since 2005.
The baroque altar is a masterpiece by the sculptor Johann Christian Feige. In addition to its rich ornamental and figurative decoration, the altar impresses above all with its artistic and spiritual depth. At its center is a biblical scene: Christ prays alone in the Garden of Gethsemane while his disciples sleep and soldiers are already approaching from the city gate to take him prisoner. Starting from this moving scene, a sermon in stone develops in the altar, centered on the message of God's giving mercy. Since almost two thousand individual parts of the altar were recovered during the deconstruction, its reconstruction was possible. Thus, the present altar consists of 80 percent of historical material.
The inner dome arches centrally above the nave and thus above the congregation. Here the Frauenkirche differs once again from many other houses of worship, where the dome – often understood as a symbol of God's protective hands – spans the chancel and thus the clergy. Eight large panels depict the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as allegories of the Christian virtues of faith, love and hope, supplemented by mercy. In George Bähr's church, the figurative paintings were executed by the Italian theater painter Johann Baptist Grone; the current paintings are by Christoph Wetzel.
The galleries of the Frauenkirche make a decisive contribution to the unique sense of space. Their curved shape, with which they enclose the church space on three sides, makes people feel welcome and secure. A total of five gallery levels provide space for about two-thirds of the guests. While the first level (prayer room gallery) is conspicuous for its window front, behind which wealthy Dresdeners once sat in separate parlors and which today has continuous seating without partitions, the higher gallery levels have openings at the windows to optimize the incidence of light.
The Silbermann Organ
The organ in Bähr's Frauenkirche was completed in 1736 and was considered one of Gottfried Silbermann's greatest works. Shortly after its completion, Johann Sebastian Bach gave a concert on the instrument. However, the organ was retuned for the first time as early as 1769, and in 1819 it was retuned again because the organ, which was in the Baroque concert pitch, was "a good half tone too low in relation to the current instrumental tuning. In the following period, the organ was extended and redesigned several times, so that its original sound was no longer recognizable. In 1945 it was completely destroyed together with the organ prospect.
The Kern organ
The new organ of the Frauenkirche was built in 2005 by the organ building company Kern from Strasbourg. It impressively combines the building principles of the organs of the two brothers Gottfried and Andreas Silbermann. The sound of the instrument is enriched by the typical voices of a French-Romantic organ, so that the new organ has an impressive versatility. Thus, the organ works of Bach can be played just as authentically as organ symphonic works by, for example, César Franck or Louise Vierne. The extremely versatile instrument has 68 sounding stops distributed over four manuals and a pedal. However, of the 4,876 pipes, the smallest measuring less than ten centimeters and the largest over five meters, only a small part is visible in the so-called organ prospect.