Dresden's Architectural Jewels, Dresden

Dresden's Architectural Jewels (Self Guided), Dresden

If there is one thing Dresden is particularly famous for, it is the magnificent architecture. Although known primarily for its Baroque buildings, the city has several other architectural styles present too, such as Renaissance, Historicism, Modernism and Post-modernism.

Much of downtown Dresden was destroyed in February 1945 by Allied bombing, which in turn prompted the rebuilding of the city's classic skyline – especially after the fall of communism, from 1989. Several elements of the Baroque architecture that formed Dresden’s reputation as a first-class architectural destination have been modified, rendering these beauties a true magnet for tourists.

Presently there are almost 13,000 listed cultural monuments in Dresden. Here are some of the most notable of them, from an architectural standpoint:

Katholische Hofkirche – an imposing Catholic church, in service since 1751; apart from being the final resting place for various kings and members of the former Wettin royal family, this cathedral is renowned for its organ, historic High Altar and 18th-century sculptures and allegories;

Stallhof – once a showplace for jousting tournaments, dating back to the 16th century, today it plays host to more sedate events, such as Middle Age Christmas market; the beautifully Italianate features of the Stall Courtyard include Classical pillars and a huge 101-meter external mural sweeping Schlossplatz Square, known as the Procession of Princes;

Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) – the most prominent building at the ever-evolving, partially reconstructed Neumarkt. Built in the late 1720s, this church, half-destroyed during World War II, is a symbol of Dresden’s terrible war-time devastation – a memorial for peace, comprising 43 per cent of the original structure, retrieved from the rubble.

To explore in more detail some of the most impressive architectural jewels of Dresden, take this self-guided walking tour.
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Dresden's Architectural Jewels Map

Guide Name: Dresden's Architectural Jewels
Guide Location: Germany » Dresden (See other walking tours in Dresden)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: vickyc
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Katholische Hofkirche (Catholic Church)
  • Semperoper (Opera House)
  • Georgentor (George Gate)
  • Sächsisches Ständehaus (Saxon State House)
  • Stallhof (Stall Courtyard)
  • Dresden Academy of Fine Arts
  • Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)
  • Kreuzkirche (Holy Cross Church)
Katholische Hofkirche (Catholic Church)

1) Katholische Hofkirche (Catholic Church) (must see)

Dresden Cathedral is Dresden's most important Catholic church. Architect Gaetano Chiavari designed the Baroque church, which was completed in 1751. It was commissioned by Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. Dresden Cathedral was built at the same time as the Lutheran Church of Our Lady.

Dresden's population was Protestant, but its rulers were Catholic. Augustus II built the church for his own use and connected it to Dresden Castle with a decorative walkway. It was originally known as the Court Church of the Most Holy Trinity. It became a cathedral in 1964.

The cathedral's balustrades feature 78 statues of saints. A procession ambulatory was integrated into the interior because outdoor Catholic worship was forbidden.

The baptismal font features a gilded metal lid and was designed in 1721. In addition, the cathedral has an organ built by famed organist Gottfried Silbermann.

Many of Saxon's rulers are buried in the cathedral's crypts. The Founder's Crypt holds the remains of Polish King Augustus III. King Augustus the Strong is buried here, as is the last King of Saxony.

Dresden Cathedral was damaged during World War II bombing raids and was restored in 1962.
Semperoper (Opera House)

2) Semperoper (Opera House)

The Semperoper is the opera house of the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden (Saxon State Opera) and the concert hall of the Staatskapelle Dresden (Saxon State Orchestra). It is also home to the Semperoper Ballett.

The opera house was originally built by the architect Gottfried Semper in 1841. After a devastating fire in 1869, the opera house was rebuilt, partly again by Semper, and completed in 1878. The opera house has a long history of premieres, including major works by Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.

The building style is hotly debated, as it has features that appear in three styles: early Renaissance and Baroque, with Corinthian style pillars typical of Greek classical revival. Perhaps the most suitable label for this style would be eclecticism, where influences from many styles are used, a practice most common during this period. Nevertheless, the opera building, Semper's first, was regarded as one of the most beautiful European opera houses.

Following a devastating fire in 1869, the citizens of Dresden immediately set about rebuilding their opera house. They demanded that Gottfried Semper do the reconstruction, even though he was then in exile because of his involvement in the May 1849 uprising in Dresden. The architect had his son, Manfred Semper, build the second opera house using his plans. Completed in 1878, it was built in Neo-Renaissance style.

The building is considered to be a prime example of "Dresden Baroque" architecture. It is situated on the Theatre Square in central Dresden on the bank of the Elbe River. On top of the portal there is a Panther quadriga with a statue of Dionysos. The interior was created by architects of the time, such as Johannes Schilling. Monuments on the portal depict artists, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, William Shakespeare, Sophocles, Molière and Euripides. The building also features work by Ernst Rietschel and Ernst Julius Hähnel. In the pre-war years, the Semperoper premiered many of the works of Richard Strauss.

In 1945, during the last months of World War II, the building was largely destroyed again, this time by the bombing of Dresden and subsequent firestorm, leaving only the exterior shell standing. Exactly 40 years later, on 13 February 1985, the opera's reconstruction was completed. It was rebuilt to be almost identical to its appearance before the war, but with the benefit of new stage machinery and an accompanying modern rear service building.

The Semperoper reopened with the opera that was performed just before the building's destruction in 1945, Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Georgentor (George Gate)

3) Georgentor (George Gate)

The George Gate is Dresden's first Renaissance building. George the Bearded commissioned the gate which was built between 1530 and 1535. The George Gate replaced a city gate that provided the original exit from Dresden to the Elbe bridge.

The building's facade features decorate figures with a religious theme. In addition, George the Bearded's motto is inscribed on the facade--"through envy of the devil came death into the world" (in Germany ""Per Invidiam Diaboli Mors Intravit In Orbem").

In 1701, a fire destroyed Dresden castle, and George Gate was renovated to house royal apartments. In 1833, an additional level was added, and in 1868 a ballroom was added.

The facade was redesigned to reflect the Neo-Renaissance style in 1901. Sculptor Christian Behren created an imposing equestrian statue of George the Bearded in George Gate's gable.

Saxony's last king, Friedrich August III, lived in George Gate until 1918. George Gate was destroyed by World War II bombs in 1945 and reconstructed during the 1960s.

George Gate houses several exhibitions. Visitors can see the Coin Cabinet with a collection of ancient medals and coins. In addition, George Gate houses an artwork exhibition.
Sächsisches Ständehaus (Saxon State House)

4) Sächsisches Ständehaus (Saxon State House)

The Sachsisches Standehaus, otherwise known as the Saxon House of Estates or Saxon State House, is an early 20th century house built by Paul Wallot. Located in Dresden's Old Town, Saxon State House was formerly the parliament building. It now serves as the seat of the Dresden Higher Regional Court and the State Office for the Preservation of Monuments in Saxony.

The original Saxon State House was built on a site once occupied by the Bruhlsche Palace, the Furstenburgsche House and the Charonsche House. These were all demolished to make room for the large palace. It was built with three stories in a trapezoidal shape.

Saxon State House contains an impressive collection of statues and artwork. Most of these works of art were created from 1905 through 1907. Artists who contributed to the Saxon State House include John Schilling, Heinrich Wedemeyer, Heinrich Epler, Ernest Paul, Peter Poeppelmann, Semlar Werner and many others.

The house was badly damaged during the World War II air raids. Reconstruction began almost immediately. However, it was thoroughly renovated between 1996 and 2001. It now holds seven courtrooms and a number of representative rooms for the state parliament.
Stallhof (Stall Courtyard)

5) Stallhof (Stall Courtyard)

Stall Courtyard is the stable yard of the residential palace. It was built in 1586 for Christian I from designs by Giovanni Maria Nosseni. It is one of the oldest tournament arenas in the world that has retained its original design.

The stable yard were heavily damaged during the air raids of World War II. Reconstruction began in 1957 but is not yet completed. However, most of the exterior, gallery space and upper floor was restored. The gallery is open to the public as part of the Dresden State Art Collections.

Reconstruction of the Stall Courtyard included the restoration of the Renaissance ceiling, 17th century bronze columns and the 16th century sandstone pool. Thirteen columns are preserved as well. There were originally 34 of these, which were cast by Merten Hilger in 1591. A mural made from 23,000 porcelain tiles on the outer wall of the Stall Courtyard shows the history of the Saxon dynasty.

Stall Courtyard is now used for cultural events, theatrical performances and horse shows.
Dresden Academy of Fine Arts

6) Dresden Academy of Fine Arts

The Dresden Academy of Fine Arts is one of the oldest schools of art in the German speaking world. The academy is significant because it replaced court patronage and provided a platform for learning, interaction and promotion of art and artists in the region.

The Dresden Academy of Fine Arts occupies three buildings and the prominent part of the college is in Bruhl’s terrace near Frauenkirche. The buildings were designed by architect, Constantin Lipsius by the order of Prince Elector Frederick Christian of Saxony and built between 1887 and 1894. The building has a neo renaissance style and the distinctive feature is a large glass dome called the lemon squeezer because of its shape. The structure suffered extensive damage in the 1945 fire bombings. The academy was reorganized, reconstructed and restored to its former glory in 1991.

The Academy of Fine Arts has an illustrious past of being administered by some well known artists of the time. Prominent directors were French artist, Charles Hutin, the first director and Bernardo Bellotto also known as Canaletto who painted landscapes of Dresden City. The Academy became one of the most important fine art schools in Europe in the 19th century because of teachers like painters, Anton Graff and Adrian Zingg.
Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)

7) Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) (must see)

The current Church of Our Lady is a Lutheran church built between 1726 and 1743. It features Baroque architecture and has one of Europe's largest domes.

The first Church of Our Lady was a Catholic church built in the 11th century. It became a Protestant church during the Reformation. The original church was torn down and replaced by the new Luthern church.

In 1736, Gottfried Silbermann built an exceptional 43-stop organ for the church. Johann Sebastian Bach played a recital on the organ on December 1, 1736.

The church's iconic dome is 96 meters (315 feet) tall. The dome is known as Stone Bell ("die Steinerne Glocke" in German). The dome is often compared to Michelangelo's St. Peter's Basilica dome. Stone Bell weighed 12,000 tons and was originally held up by eight supports.

In 1945, Allied forces bombed Dresden. The church survived two days of attacks before collapsing. While most of the church was destroyed, the original altar and chancel were salvaged.

Residents salvaged and numbered stone fragments, hoping to use them in a future reconstruction. In 1994, Gunter Blobel won the Nobel Prize for medicine and donated his prize money to restore the Church of Our Lady. In addition, England's Prince Edward supported the Dresden Trust which contributed funds for the reconstruction project.

Rebuilding the Church of Our Lady cost 180 million Euros. The rebuilding effort began in 1992 and was completed in 2005. The church was rebuilt using the original plans from the 1720s and salvaged materials. About 3,800 original stones were used in the reconstruction. One can see the original stones in the building as they appear darker due to age and fire damage.

Rebuilding the church was a community-wide effort. Builders relied on photographs and memories to reconstruct the details. For example, old wedding albums helped builders reconstruct the church's carved oak doors.

A new orb and cross were forged and placed on top of the dome. The original damaged cross stands inside by the church's altar. The original organ was replaced with a 68-stop organ.

The rebuilt Church of Our Lady is a popular attraction. US President Barack Obama visited the church in 2009.
Kreuzkirche (Holy Cross Church)

8) Kreuzkirche (Holy Cross Church)

Located at the center of the Old Town in Dresden near the Altmarkt square, the Kreuzkirche has one of the finest Boy’s Choirs in Europe. The 92 meter high tower has a balcony from which one can see a 36 degree view of the city of Dresden.

A small church stood on the location of the present Kreuzkirche from the early 12th century. In 1388, it was formally dedicated to the Holy Cross. The church burned down and was rebuilt five times. The recent reconstruction was in 1955 after the World War II bombing of the city. Kreuzkirche is the largest church in Saxony. The 13th century church was replaced by a gothic building after a fire. In 1492, the Gothic structure caught fire and was rebuilt. In 1539, the first Lutheran service in Dresden was held in the newly reconstructed church. A tower was added to the church between 1579 and 1584. In 1760, the Prussian army bombarded and damaged the church. Architect, Johann Georg Schmidt designed a new neoclassicist structure and the church opened its doors again in 1792.

The newly rebuilt church in 1955 has a simple interior. The acoustics in the hall are impressive especially when the famous Boy’s Choir performs and on Saturday afternoons when cross choir vespers take place.

Walking Tours in Dresden, Germany

Create Your Own Walk in Dresden

Create Your Own Walk in Dresden

Creating your own self-guided walk in Dresden is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Dresden Introduction Walking Tour

Dresden Introduction Walking Tour

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