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The Frauenkirche may be the symbol of Dresden, but another church, the Hofkirche, deserves equal attention. It stands as the largest church in all of Saxony.
The Hofkirche, constructed as a Catholic church, stands in comparison to the Lutheran alliegance of the Frauenkirche, and in the face of the strength of Prostestantism throughout Dresden in the mid-18th century. In 1697, Saxon Elector Augustus the Strong converted to Catholicism so that he could be eligible for the throne of Poland. This conversion shocked many of his contemporaries, as Saxony and its dukes were long considered to be champions of the Protestant Reformation. As Dresden did not have a Catholic church, Augustus used a royal chapel for his religious services. When the Lutheran Frauenkirche began construction in 1726 as a city parish, Augustus’ son and successor, Friedrich Augustus II, commissioned the building of a Catholic church.
Italian architect Gaetano Chiaveri was charged with the task, and construction of the Hofkirche began in 1738. It was completed in 1755. Chiaveri brought Italian masons with him and neither the architect nor his workmen spoke German. Due to the language constraints and insufficient financial support, Chiaveri left the project after ten years of challenging work.
Designed by Chiaveri in the High Baroque style, the church is oval shaped with an impressive belfry measuring 272 feet in height. Balustrades frame the church and from these features arise 78 statues, each measuring three meters high. The statues represent historical and religious figures.
The body of Friedrich Augustus II is interred in the crypt of the Hofkirche, along with the heart of his father, Augustus the Strong, the last king of Saxony. Several dozen other family members from the House of Wettin are interred there as well. The church contains the last and largest organ built by Gottfried Silbermann. This organ is considered to be the greatest work of Silbermann’s career. The interior also boasts a Rococo pulpit by Balthasar Permoser, a leading sculptor of his time. Permoser created several sculptures for Augustus the Strong’s Zwinger Palace.
The Hofkirche was badly damaged during the allied air raids on Dresden in February of 1945. Bombs fell through the roof of the nave, causing it to collapse. And the interior was extensively burnt during the raids. Reconstruction of the church began soon after the end of the war, but progress was slow. By 1955, a shell of the exterior was completed and, in 1962, a reconstructed nave was used once again for religious services. Finally, in 1987 reconstruction of the entire structure was finished. Many damaged, valuable interior features of the church were saved and restored, including the Silbermann organ which was returned to its home in the Hofkirche.
The Hofkirche is located in the Theaterplatz in Dresden’s Altstadt. Many of the city’s other famous historic sites are situated near or beside the church, including: the Zwinger, the Semperoper, and the Brühliche Terrasse. When crossing the Elbe River on the Augustsbrücke into Alstadt, the Hofkirche is the first building to greet visitors. And, it is truly an impressive, memorable greeting.
Written by and Photos by Morgen Young for EuropeUpClose.com