Motherland of the Reformation

Motherland of the Reformation

Palace of art

When the decision was taken to rebuild Dresden Castle, it was clear that it would serve as a museum building for the priceless treasures of the Dresden State Art Collections. They had first survived World War II in safe havens and then had been returned in 1958 after being deported by the Russians. The first two decades of the reconstruction were used to rebuild the outer structures of the castle, going back to its original Renaissance style. In the last ten years some of the museums have started moving in gradually. Highlights were the reconstruction and reopening of the famous Green Vault, the treasure chamber of the Saxon rulers, and the recreation of the Hall of Giants for the Armory Museum. In the years to come, more rooms will become available and the castle is supposed to be completed in the 2020s, allowing visitors to take a complete journey through the Renaissance and Baroque times.

Magnificent stage

Trying to explain what kind of building the Zwinger is difficult because the plans of Elector Augustus the Strong changed too often. Influenced by his Grand Tour to France and Italy, he wanted to remodel his residence in Dresden as a modern Baroque city. To the dismay of his army officers, Augustus had most of Dresden’s fortifications razed to the ground and created a ceremonial square in the “Zwinger”, the area where the outer and inner defensive walls had stood. It began in 1709 as an orangery, was later intended as the forecourt of a new palace, and is now home to some of the world-famous museums of the Dresden State Art Collections, like the Old Masters Picture Gallery and the Porcelain Collection. And it became a superb synthesis of Baroque arts. The Zwinger was heavily damaged during World War II but rebuilt immediately afterwards at the behest of the art-loving Soviet city commandant. Today guests are still infatuated by the perfect harmony between architecture and sculpture. Visitors who cross the Zwinger too fast miss the most beautiful feature of Baroque zest for life, the playful “Bath of the Nymphs” fountain.

Assorted pearls

While the museums in Dresden Castle and the Zwinger are the most visited of the Dresden State Art Collections, the other locations are worth seeing, too. The New Masters Picture Gallery and the Sculpture Collection are at home in the Albertinum, an impressive former armory building in the city center. Where Luther once visited the Augustine monastery on the other side of the Elbe River, the “Jägerhof” hunting lodge now houses the Museum of Folk Art. The ethnological museum is in the Japanese Palace, once built for Augustus the Strong’s vast porcelain collection. Other branches can be found in the Grassi Museum in Leipzig and in Herrnhut, birthplace if the Moravian Church and the Moravian Stars. The palace of Pillnitz on the outskirts of Dresden is considered a textbook example of the chinoiserie style, fusing the architectures of the Baroque and the Orient. In the Upper Palace, the Museum of Applied Arts exhibits its collection during the summer month.