Dresden's Landmark Cathedral Slowly Returning To City Skyline

Posted Nov 11, 2000 by Joerg Schurig
Dresden (dpa) - Dresden's Frauenkirche Cathedral, which was destroyed in devastating Allied bombing in February 1945, is slowly returning to the east German city's skyline and is currently at the building stage first reached 268 years ago.
In December 1732 the cathedral was a third of the way towards being complete.
Now, builders are reconstructing the "inner dome" and by 2002 they will have removed most of the scaffolding and have started work on the outer "stone bell" set to be completed by the year 2004. Interior work will take another year so that the project will near completion in 2005 - one year earlier than planned.
Already the Foundation for the Reconstruction of the Frauenkirche is faced with an insurmountable problem at the inauguration ceremony. If all donors are invited to the celebration the cathedral will have to be reopened 327 times. Some 600,000 people worldwide have given donations for the rebuilding of the famous landmark.
Building director Eberhard Burger says "we are building 30 cubic metres of sandstone each day" while a weather protection roof that towers 45 metres above the construction work has been "a technological wonder".
It enabled workers to proceed far more rapidly than planned. Since November 1999 up to 70 people have been working in two shifts. Currently there are 50 workers on site.
"We don't have any ambitions to speed up the work even more," says Burger.
The workers have meanwhile reached the first foundation level of the dome itself. It was one of the weak points in the original structure. Rainwater had often penetrated and weakened the stone.
Old paintings illustrate workers carrying out renovation work. The experts are now seeking a different solution. "One of the options emerged as too expensive. We are, however, confident that we will solve the problem," says Burger.
While Burger and his workers are slowly working their way up stone by stone, Guettler and other foundation members are continuing their campaign for more donations. Of the building costs estimated at 250 million marks (110 million dollars) a total of 185 million marks has already been collected.
Of these, 125 million came from private donations. Most of the donations came from so-called donor certificates which were issued by the Dresdner Bank in gold, silver or bronze letters.
A platinum version, with which the donor symbolically buys one of the 1,833 seats in the cathedral, can be obtained for a sum of 20,000 marks. The donor's name will be engraved on a copper nameplate on "his" seat.
"Of course this does not give him a right to have the seat," says the cathedral's "finance minister" Paul G. Schaubert. About 200 platinum seats have already been sold but Schaubert is keeping the names secret.
A dispute on the future shape of the organ is soon to be resolved. A company has offered to pay for the reconstruction of the original Silberman organ for a sum of the three million marks. But a group of experts recently proposed the installation of a new organ. "We don't want to play only Bach music," they argue.
The future use of the Frauenkirche is also being discussed. Guettler wants the cathedral to be used for concerts, exhibitions and peace symposiums.
"If we should one day manage to get warring parties to the negotiating table in the Frauenkirche, the message will have been understood," says Guettler. After all the cathedral would be giving back what it had received from all over the world, he argues. "Our message is peace and reconciliation."