In July 1960, Dmitri Shostakovich visited Dresden, which was then in the communist German Democratic Republic, to write the score for a film, 'Five Days, Five Nights'. This was the first time he had seen the devastation caused by the Allied bombing raids on February 14th 1945. The experience directly inspired his Eighth String Quartet, Op 110, which was written in just three days, and dedicated to the victims of fascism and war. The quartet became a musical symbol of the devastated city.
In the same way the rubble of the beautiful Frauenkirche (above), which was consecrated in 1734 and collapsed two days after the 1945 attacks, became a visual symbol of the ruined 'Florence on the Elbe.' The cathedral's famous organ by Gottfried Silbermann was also totally destroyed. It had been played by Johann Sebastian Bach in a recital in December 1736. The acoustics of the cathedral were said to have inspired passages in Wagner's Parsifal, and he conducted the first performance of his Biblical scene Das Liebesmahl der Apostel, Op. 69 there in 1843.
But a miracle has taken place. The Frauenkirche has risen like a phoenix from the ashes after sixty years, and the meticulously rebuilt cathedral with its restored Silbermann organ was re-consecrated in October. Last week we made a pilgrimage from Berlin through the former DDR to the restored cathedral. Here are some of my photos. Feast your eyes for this is truly a miracle.
Exterior of the restored Frauenkirche, taken from the left of the statue of Martin Luther seen in the top photo. 8400 outer facade pieces, and 87,000 internal masonry blocks recovered from the ruin were mapped onto a computer, and re-used where possible in their original locations in the rebuilding. The recovered stones can be seen as black blocks in the new facade. Photo - On An Overgrown Path
Above is the beautifully rebuilt interior of the dome. Below is the restored altar originally created by the Dresden sculptor Johann Christian Feige the Elder, and recreated from more than two thousand pieces of rubble. Above it is the magnificently restored Silbermann organ which has already been captured on CD. Photos - On An Overgrown Path
Anyone who doubts the ability of our culture to regenerate itself should make this pilgrimage.
The three colour pictures were taken by me on an 'old-school' Nikon F50 on 25th November 2005 (by an extraordinary coincidence 300 years to the exact day that the Silbermann organ was originally dedicated). The interior shots were hand-held using 200 ASA film. Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk Image owners - if you do not want your picture used on this site please contact me and it will be replaced
Now take An Overgrown Path to Dresden Requiem for eleven young victims
* This article was originally published on December 3, 2005, and is reblogged here as part of On An Overgrown Path's second anniversary celebration of Music beyond borders. Follow this link to read the comments posted to the original article.