Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The tale of two churches

When you look at Dresden from Hausmannsturm, you can see two quite distinctive landmarks. Two churches. One Catholic, being right next to the Residenzschloß. One Lutheran, visible in the near distance. I know it’s nothing special that one town or one city has more than one church. But what amazed me was their sizes. Both are monumental, spectacular. Both are visible, clearly visible from a distance.

The first one - The Katholische Hofkirche, i.e. the Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony, since 1980 aka Kathedrale Sanctissinae Trinitatis or Cathedral of the Holy Trinity.

The second one – The Dresden Frauenkirche, i.e. the Church of Our Lady.

One of them was ordered by the royal family, the other was built at the will of the citizens of Dresden. Why such a dichotomy?

Frederich Augustus II, Elector of Saxony. Augustus the Strong, King of Poland. Lutheran Dresden and Catholic Poland. 18th century Europe.

At some point during his reign, Frederich Augustus II decided that he’d love to become the King of Poland. However, one of the musts for all Polish kings was to be Catholic. Poor Frederich decided that no matter what, he’d make his dream come true. Having said that, he converted to Catholicism, which gave him the right to gain Polish crown. The majority of people in Dresden, however, still remained Protestant. That’s why the town had no Catholic church of real importance. To mark his faith conversion, Frederich ordered the building of the Hofkirche, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, to establish a sign of Roman Catholic religious importance in Dresden. A church that is connected with the Residenzschloß by a special passage, a kind of a bridge with walls and a roof,  to protect the royal family from walking in the streets when they wanted to get to the church.

When the people of Dresden found out about that, they felt betrayed. If their Elector was building a Catholic cathedral in their Protestant town, they’re going to show him what the power of population means. They order the building of the Frauenkirche, which is said to be the greatest cupola building in Central and Northern Europe. The interiors reminded us of the Stockholm Opera House. Definitely not what I could associate with a church, no matter if Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox or any other. A huge WOW!


Martin Luther's monument at Neumarkt Square.                                                                                                                  The Altar inside.
On the left you can see part of the Frauenkirche.

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