The city of Dresden in the south-eastern part of Germany is sometimes called “Florence of the Elbe” – to put into words the Italian feeling that this city radiates. The city had its good times and, like many others around the world, has seen bad times. During World War II it was heavily bombed.
The “Frauenkirche” (Church of Our Lady) resisted the bombs, but caught fire two days later and imploded. As a ruin the dead church survived socialism in midst the town.
Since its destruction many citizens had the feeling that something is missing: The dome of the Frauenkirche has been a landmark since 1743, a part of the baroque skyline that was (as we would say today in a marketing jargon) an USP – something that makes the city unique. Canaletto, as the Italian painter Bernado Belloto used to call himself, made this view immortal.
On the other hand: The ruin of the imploded church was somehow remarkable as well. A memorial against war and the self-defeating destructions that every war brings to the people.
As all over eastern Europe the communist regimes broke down in 1989/1990, freedom gave old ideas room to flourish. One of those was to rebuild the Frauenkirche.
Oh, that’s impossible!
There is no Christian community that could fill this church with religious life! It is to expensive! We don’t need churches that nobody misses – there is so much else to do!
But you do need crazy thinkers to open the minds! There was a group of nine intellectuals, artists, scientists who met at the end of socialism and formulated the “Call from Dresden”, a memorandum to rebuild the church.
1990. When I visited Dresden for the first time just eight months after the fall of the Berlin wall, which signalized the end of communism in the German (not so) Democratic Republic, I had many new impressions. This land, the other part of Germany, was somehow strange to me. One of the unforgettable things was a mountain of debris in the middle of the city: The remains of the Frauenkirche, with grass and even trees growing on them. People walked by and didn’t notice this as special…
1992. On 13 February I visited the ruin again. This is the day when the city of Dresden has been bombed and destroyed. People met at the ruin of the Frauenkirche, and they did this on their own without any pressure. They brought candles and flowers, and although it was a big crowd the place was completely silent.
This was impressive, and many people kept saying: Let’s keep the ruins, as a memorial against war. Even the former Lutheran bishop Johannes Hempel was against rebuilding the church – in those days.