The 18th century saw the real blossoming of Dresden’s cultural life, when the city became the spring of a rapid development which would be remembered as the most impressive and perhaps the most significant period of time not only in the cultural history of Germany, but in that of the entire continent. Dresden is the hometown of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–68), considered by many as the founder of classical archaeology, with his famous article, Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Painting and Sculpture, published in 1755, which would represent “the manifesto of German Classicism” (Clayton, Anthony; Russell, Alan, p.199).
His vision of simplicity and serenity later became an important influence upon notable writers such as Goethe and Schiller, both paying several visits to Dresden. On the occasion of these visits, the two witnessed important events in the history of Europe, such as the beginning of the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon, but they also created the opportunity for the providential meeting between Schiller and Christian Gottfried Komer, who would, years later, compose “the first musical setting for Schiller’s Ode to Joy” (Clayton, Anthony; Russell, Alan, p.
199), and would offer his summer house to the writer as a place of tranquility and inspiration. It is precisely during one of his stays here that Schiller writes his famous tragedy, Don Carlos. As a consequence of the immense creative productivity in German cultural life, this era, loosely comprised between the middle of the 18th century and the 1830s, is now referred to as the “Age of Goethe”. The dawn of the 1980s saw the transformation of the Frauenkirche ruins into a symbol of the German Democratic Republic peace movement.
Moreover, on the evening of each year’s February the 13th, peace demonstrators would gather in front of the ruins for a silent remembrance of the war and its victims. The troubled final months of 1989 witnessed an initiative on the part of the people of Dresden that would forever change the history of their city. They gathered with the aim of rebuilding Frauenkirche using a campaign entitled “Appeal from Dresden”, a call for public support to reconstruct the church.
The purpose of the Frauenkirche Foundation Dresden was to raise enough money through donations to cover around 50% of the costs of rebuilding estimated at $180 million (€ 132 million); their target was not only met, it was exceeded. In the event, more than $135 million (€ 100 million) was collected via donations around the world. (Dagmar Giersberg, The Reconstruction of Dresden’s Frauenkirche, http://www. goethe. de/ges/rel/thm/skm/en942577. htm). The Dresden Trust established three strong independent branches outside Germany, in three countries which greatly contributed to the reconstruction of Frauenkirche.
These branches are located in Great Britain, France (Paris) and in the United States of America (where the Trust is called Friends of Dresden). Other important sums of money were raised as a result of German and foreign initiatives such as lectures, publications, exhibitions, benefit concerts, and then turned over to the Frauenkirche Foundation Dresden, and its main supporters, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony, the State of Saxony and the City of Dresden.
It was a huge financial challenge; nevertheless it was an initiative that echoed and gave rise to waves of support throughout the world. Then Chancellor Helmut Kohl made a 1 million DEM donation (€ 1/2 million). The Dresdner Bank collected almost € 70 million for the reconstruction. “I was overwhelmed by people’s willingness to donate”, said Herbert Walter, Chairman of the Board of Managing Directors of Dresdner Bank. “The reconstruction also proved that in Germany we can achieve something if we really want to.
” (Ceremonial Consecration of Dresden’s Frauenkirche, http://www. allianz. com/en/allianz_group/press_center/news/commitment_news/culture/news9. html). Another method of raising money for the reconstruction was to sell watches that contained tiny pieces of the dismantled walls of Frauenkirche. Thousands sold, adding an important amount of money to the total sum. The reconstruction of Frauenkirche was interpreted as a sign of reconciliation between the main opposing forces of WWII, and was largely supported by donations made by several German and English foundations.
There is somewhat of a legend circulating, according to which, in the early 1990s, during a birthday party attended by a large number of wealthy influential guests, through what seemed a joke at the time, Chancellor Kohl was given the chance to raise money for the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche. He did not hesitate and, when his guests inquired as to what the Chancellor would want for his birthday, he replied that only the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche would be a suitable gift.
This is how, according to some, IBM got involved in the project: one of their high representatives was present, overheard Germany’s Chancellor at the time and decided to offer his company’s support to the German state. (Kenneth Asch, Rebuilding Dresden) The German people wanted its church back. This is why architects chose to rebuild the church according to the original plans, using as much original material from the site as possible. In the end, almost 8,000 original stones were put back in their places. (New Cupola for Frauenkirche, http://www. dw-world.
de/dw/article/0,,1243268,00. html) “The term of archaeological reconstruction in the understanding of art historians and the professionals participating in the reconstruction of the Frauenkirche, meant the reconstruction according to the plans of its builder George Bahr, taking into consideration the master builder’s principles, using reusable original materials as well as still standing parts of the ruin and the foundation masonry, and also with careful additions according to today’s engineering standards. ” (W. Jager, T. Burkert, The Reconstruction of the Frauenkirche in Dresden)